Tag Archives: forgiveness

Reflection on Revenge

Dear Sor Juana,

I have discovered that gossip and scandal, lampooning and scuttle buck are ways revenge takes shape in my language and conversation – from a subtle put down here to a full blown personal attack there.  Words laced with vengeance have a capacity to rise up from a from a well deep inside I had thought was dry. The words echo from this dark chamber and make a lot of noise.

I can see why you might have chosen silence as a way of monitoring your own behaviour. Silence need not still the thoughts and from time to time they eek out through my mouth and become audible.  I had one of those times this past week.  Revenge is one of the dark sides of the desire for control.  I am indebted to Hugh Mackay who unintentionally helped me join those dots this week while I was reading his book “What Makes Us Tick“?  And reminded me once again of the difference between justice and revenge; “one civilised and measured, the other brutish and primitive”.

Control issues are inherent in my personality and the quest for integration is a balance of leadership and power and surrendering to vulnerability. I noticed my anger and vengeful self having a day out this week. Sor Juana your uneasy relationship with power and authority perhaps propelled you through the courts using your intellect to control others and within the container of the convent able to find balance in community and prayer, subjecting yourself to the rule of religious life.

The search for equilibrium is universal and in our western world phrases like “work-life balance” abound. An on / off switch regulating my working hours makes no sense to me. This is becoming easier as work practices are more dynamic and technologically supported; but it is also becoming easier as personal reflection is an integrated practice.  There is no work-life divide – just as there wasn’t for you in the convent – it is vocation to be who you are (warts and all).  I have written about this previously and been encouraged by David Whyte’s work in his book The Three Marriages.  This constant conversation is with all the elements and when the conversation is undertaken in whole heartedness, insights emerge healing and inviting us to our deeper selves. In the case of revenge, it may lead to forgiveness.

Forgiveness begins in the shadows of fear, betrayal, anger and breaches of trust. Finding the light, brings humility and is restorative.  As a pilgrim, I accept “We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel” (David Whyte, The Three Marriages). The river flows through rocky rapids and other times takes up a foetal position in a cul de sac nudging the muddy banks. The invitation to get inside what revenge is all about has been an act of restorative justice. It is self restoration, a coming home to myself from darkness to light and appropriately so in this Holy Week Easter season.

Easter Sunrise

John O’Donohue

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you

Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

 

Corcomroe Abbey, where John O'Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013

Corcomroe Abbey, where John O’Donohue celebrated Easter morn many times. I visited in June 2013

National Apology

Dear Hildegard,

It’s been quite a week for leaders on the political landscape – stepping up to the mark, not stepping up to the mark, resignations, sackings and apologising. In the midst of all the upheaval in Canberra, the hearts of mothers who forcibly had their children removed and given up for adoption had a moment in their long quest for recognition acknowledged and witnessed by the nation. I am such a believer in this idea of witness. Witness is solidarity’s sister. It is not vicarious. We could all see, first hand, the effect of forced adoption anguish and the residue of tears of lifetime etched in the crevices of faces, and in doing so we were not the same again.

Loss and grief is a journey that sometimes seems to have no final destination. To carry this around for a life time must be exhausting and relentless and I hope for many of these women and now adult children, they can at least take a rest from that journey for a while. I keep hearing Chuck Girard’s song Lay Your Burden Down in relation to these experiences and trusting that all involved can lay their burden down and rest a while. Where laying down isn’t an act of surrender but an act of rest of handing it over to another authority or sharing the burden so you don’t have to carry it all on your own.

I can find laying burdens down an enormous challenge – wanting to chew over and revisit decisions or relive experiences – instead of shaking off the dust from my sandals and moving on. What is it that enables us to be free and liberated some times and at not others? Is it guilt, ego, pain, the lack of a witness? When you meet witness you discover the power of observation and deep reflection, you notice the details and the nuances, you hear all the modulations of the tones, you see the spectrum of colours. You have taken the time to be still to stare and to soak in and soak up and come to know (word witness root meaning is wit – to know and when you trace that back it is linked to vis – to vision and to see). The sea of witnesses to the apology about forced adoptions gave me a glimpse of a vision of a world where saying sorry brought healing, hearing those words brings reconciliation and forgiveness and being witness to the events of a world where it is possible for institutional power to hear the truth of the words spoken allowing the veil of shame to fall away. As the Quakers would say “speak your truth to power” I wonder if when I can’t lay my burden down it is because I have not spoken my truth?

I hear your voice Hidlegard in your song of light as it is only in the light that the witness can see and in doing so brings more light to the task of witnessing.

A National apology is something I am proud my country can do. As a citizen I give thanks for the work done on my behalf by the Senate to bring this apology to birth and a lighter journey for those who might be able to rest now and lay their burdens down. As a woman, a mother and a daughter I give witness to this event and all the other women, mothers and daughters whose lives are defined by the experience of forced adoption. As a spiritual sojourner, I step into the light so I might see more clearly and know more deeply what it is to forgive, be forgiven and to speak my truth to power.

sorry_oils