Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Principles as Spiritual Practice – Forgiving the Unforgiveable (1.3)

“I take up the way of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

For me personally, the hardest aspect of learning to live the first principle of Unitarian Universalism in my daily life has been learning to forgive… particularly learning to forgive those who seem to have done unforgivable things. For years I added a “caveat” to the first principle… that everyone was born with inherent worth and dignity, but not everyone keeps it.

This was before I realized that this principle is primarily an internal principle, deeply rooted in who I am spiritually. Who you are spiritually. Only secondarily does this principle describe others in relation to ourselves. The first principle calls us to an inward spiritual stance, and only from that can come an authentic outward political or social stance.

We discussed how the first principle has profound implications for our self-view… that it is a call to self-forgiveness, self-love, and self-understanding in a culture that is rank with self-guilt, self-loathing, and self-doubt. This is part of the spiritually healing nature of the first principle. But it calls us also to an inward spiritual commitment that is even more profound, even more healing.

It calls us to a radical practice of forgiveness and acceptance. The same forgiveness and acceptance that we extend to ourselves, we are called on to extend to others… whether they have repented or been held responsible for their actions or not. We forgive someone not because they have asked, or because they are sorry, but because it is better for us spiritually if we forgive them, let go of the anger and hurt feelings, and accept that they have inherent worth and dignity no matter what they have done. Like ourselves, they always have the possibility of transformative change.

In my own life, I think of some of the perpetrators of the war crimes I saw in Bosnia, or of the drug lord of the Medellin Cartel in Columbia whom I helped search for. I think of the Sendero Luminoso guerillas in Peru who massacred a village that I saw pictures of, or of dictators such a Augusto Pinochet.

But, it does not need to be so grandiose as that. The same practice of radical forgiveness also applies to those who seem unforgiveable in our own lives. An ex-partner or spouse, a former friend, a politician who lied, or whose policies lead to death or hardship, a boss who cheated you, or someone who treated you badly in High School. There are many such “unforgiveable” relationships in our lives.

The practice of radical forgiveness does not mean we become naive. It does not mean you allow a con artist to swindle you out of the other half of your life savings. It does not mean that you simply accept that your spouse is going to cheat on you, and do nothing about it. It does not mean that there are no longer consequences for actions.

What it means is that you untie your internal forgiveness from the requirement that someone else be held accountable for things they have done. It means you accept that inherent worth and dignity is equal worth and dignity, dependent not upon actions but upon simply carrying that divine spark of life. It means that you accept the possibility that even the person who has committed humanity’s most unspeakable acts still holds the possibility of transformation.

The action is very soft, I feel relief, the problems go by the https://xanaxbest.com wayside, the drug enlightens mind. If you don’t have anxiety and other things, you won’t feel any effect. Nevertheless, there are serious disadvantages. It noticeably deteriorates memory, sometimes it is not possible to remember what you have done a minute ago. It is a kind of amnesia.

I want to be as clear as I can that this is not a call away from the Justice in Human Relations that is a part of the second principle of Unitarian Universalism. In truth, I see this aspect of the first principle as a purification of the justice component of the second principle. When you confront many human efforts at “Justice” you find that they are motivated by revenge, anger, and pain, not equality and healing. The practice of radical forgiveness, when practiced, allows us to seek justice for the sake of its higher ideal, not to assuage our own pain and anger.

The death penalty is, in my opinion, justice carried out in pain and anger, and therefore more revenge than it is justice. “To give the families peace” is not a justice-centered motivation, but a revenge-centered motivation.

The way you begin a practice of radical forgiveness in your life begins with awareness. Make a list of all the people in your life and in this world that you hate, despise, loathe, fear, hold anger towards, or resent. These can and should be people from your own life, as well as public figures or people you have only heard of or about.

Make note of the names, remember who the people are on your list. When, during daily life, you hear one of these names, or a thought crosses your mind about one of the people on your list, pause. Take three conscious breaths… normal but aware breaths, and then say “So and So has inherent worth and dignity”.

In my case, it might be that I pause, take three conscious breaths, and say “Rush Limbaugh has inherent worth and dignity” or “Dawn has inherent worth and dignity”. And then move on through my day, the cycle of anger, resentment, and guilt that these names bring up for me interrupted. Over time, the “trigger” these names bring up for me might even go away.

Over time in this practice, you might begin to see these individuals as more complex than the image of them that we see through anger, resentment, or loathing. You might begin to see the deeper issues in their own lives, and see the human connections that you share with them. From this, you can even begin to feel true compassion for that person, and then they often can no longer stay on your “list”.

Understand, this is an internal practice. You do not ever need to tell the person that you are forgiving them, that you have come to be aware of their inherent worth and dignity. That is ok. In some cases you may seek to rebuild the relationship, but that is not always useful or healthy. Remember, this is not about being naïve, but about your own internal spiritual health and balance.

Through this practice, we step out of the cycle of revenge and aggression, and begin to accept responsibility for our own feelings, for our own internal spiritual balance. From this foundation then, we begin to act in the world in a way that truly affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person… of ourselves, of those we hold dear, of those we don’t know, and of those who have hurt us. Every Person.

“Teach us to delight in simple things,
And mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And love to all beneath the sun.” — Rudyard Kipling

“I take up the way of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

Next in series: Why Inherent? (1.4)

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