Present Tense

On Forgiving….

Here’s the thing about forgiveness and compassion.

The more I read about the kid who murdered 17 people in Florida last week, the more it breaks my heart.

The whole situation is so incredibly devastating, but to read about a kid…yes a kid…a human…not a ‘monster’ or a ‘madman’, but a kid who had obviously had a difficult life and long standing mental/anger/anti-social problems doesn’t make me angry.

It makes me sad. For him, for his family; obviously for his victims and the entire community who will never fully recover.

He was not getting the help that he needed, his mother died and left him and his younger brother with no guidance, no place to go.

He was broken.

Now, here is the hard part: Forgiveness and compassion.

Remember when Dylan Roof, murdered all of those people in the church in South Carolina? And several of the family members told him, within days of this horrible crime, that they forgave him; some even offered love, based on their religious beliefs.

I was amazed by that reaction. Amazed. Heartened. Inspired.

BUT, just because we forgive or have compassion or love for someone who has done something HORRIBLE, does NOT mean that they avoid the consequences.

My husband and I have this conversation a lot; the whole concept of compassion and grace, usually when I’m complaining about something horrible that a politician did:). He will say “But, we have to forgive their bad behavior because we’re all flawed”. Forgive, but hold accountable.

I actually found myself having to ‘walk the walk’ almost two years ago when a FedEx driver hit and killed my dog Ember in our driveway. He was driving too fast, he knew our dogs and we were devastated.

I looked him in the eye a week later and told him that I forgave him and was sorry for the pain that he was in. I know that both of our hearts were broken. It doesn’t go away, but it lifted just a tiny bit of the burden we were both struggling with.

Just because we feel badly or our heart is broken over the challenges or illness that drove this kid in Florida to murder 17 people, does NOT mean that we as a society, don’t require consequences for his actions.

We can do both. It’s sort of along the lines of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, which I’ve always thought was such a stupid premise. But, I’m starting to get it; that concept is sinking in.

So, here is the bottom line concept: We CAN judge and we can forgive. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

And in fact, in order for us to function, we need to tie those two together.

This is basically what all religions and spiritual ideals teach us. Love our neighbors/our fellow humans/; even those who are flawed and broken. BUT, do not let them off the hook for their actions.

This is hard….living and practicing grace is probably one of the most difficult things we will ever do….

February 26, 2018 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity.  I think that truly happy people know that their happiness comes from getting outside of themselves and swimming with the other humans in the sea of humanity.

I do not tend toward generosity.  I say that sadly and certainly not with pride.  I close myself off from people.  It’s some sort of defense mechanism that I developed as a young ‘un and the intensity waxes and wanes with the situation.  I’m working on changing that.

I think that in our culture, we equate generosity with philanthropy or financial donations or support.  If you give money, you’re generous.  That may be true…or it may not.  There are plenty of folks who hand out bills or write checks that lack true generosity. What I’m talking about, we’ll call generosity of spirit.

In a nutshell, generosity of spirit means that you greet pretty much everyone and every situation with an open heart.  You cut them some slack.  You realize that we all struggle together on this big blue marble.  Generosity of spirit means you soften when you see people’s pain, rather than judge them with a “well, you made your bed, now lay in it”.

Generosity of spirit requires empathy and the realization that underneath people’s bad or annoying (i.e. human) behavior, there is a soul that needs nurturing, just like you do.  That we all share 99.9% of our DNA and that as humans, we thrive on kindness and compassion from our compadres instead of the much easier, criticism and impatience.

There are cultures around the world (many of which as proud Americans, we make fun of as soft or poor or ‘third world’) where generosity is prized above all else.  Where you are expected to love your neighbor and see to their comfort and happiness and in turn, you bless yourself.  American values stress rugged individualism, making our own way, taking care of #1.  Which could be the reason why EVERYONE complains that nobody is very nice anymore. Are you nice?  Are you generous?  All the time?  Me, neither.

But, I’m professionally successful and financially well-off and I have two nice houses and a couple of cars and lots of stuff.  I should be ecstatic!  I’m not.

I’m working on opening up my heart to people, ideas, nature,  compassion and the love that I believe underscores life on earth.  That also means opening up to pain, grief, jealousy, envy, hate, anger and all of the things that lead to our suffering and struggling as we make our way.  Embracing the good stuff, while recognizing and allowing the bad, is the way to awaken to our short and finite time on earth.  Our culture does not help us on this path….at all.

It’s a process for me and I slip up and backslide everyday.  Some situations prompt me to old behavior where I close down,  curl up into my little protective ball of ‘me’ and ignore the needs of those around me.  I snap or bark or toss out a stinging, smart-ass remark, when I should smile and listen and encourage.  Two steps forward, one step back.  The key is not to hate myself for my shortcomings.  To practice the same generosity toward myself that I want to project to others.

I wish you well, I wish you freedom from suffering.  May you live a life of ease and peace.

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments


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