First, as you seek to makes amends, please consider the person who should be first on that list: you. How can you make amends to another if you cannot offer the same to yourself? It’s a lot like love…
Secondly, remember that whenever you relive an insult — or think or dwell on it — you have repeated that same insult. In this way, you relive and re-experience all the insults of your life.
Think about that…
All isms end up in schisms.
— Huston Smith
Several years ago, I was having a very rough time at a community meeting. I was trying to educate a group of people on the effectiveness of alternative to incarceration programs. Specifically, I was part of an effort to take over an abandoned property and turning it into transitional housing for the men and women returning from incarceration.
For me, it was a no-brainer: treat the root causes and crime decreases. Treat the addiction and it has a double effect. It’s more effective and cheaper than incarceration which is an extremely expensive failure. Address education meaningfully by investing in smaller classroom size and making schools more accessible to parents and we prevent crime before it ever begins. We had the charts, the facts — in short we had everything I thought we needed to help people see that locking up millions of individuals (mostly young people of color) wasn’t a very smart or effective way to create a moral and just society.
Man, we were getting beat up that day! We were getting nowhere and the hate — man, the hate was palpable. LOL
At one point, during an intermission, this young white brother came up to me and asked if he could address the audience briefly. I don’t why I trusted this individual, I had never seen him before, and I had had it to here
::grabs deez nuts::
… with angry white men. But inwardly acknowledging that the meeting couldn’t possibly get any worse, I shrugged and told him, “Go ahead, finish putting me out of my misery.”
He got up and told of how two men brutally murdered the woman who raised him, his grandmother — the only family he had. He told of the agonizing pain and hardship; the anger he felt; of how he wanted those who took his grandmother’s life to be punished — to have their lives taken also.
Then he spoke about something that floored everybody. He spoke about his journey from being consumed with vengeance to forgiveness. In the process of speaking of that healing process, he managed to do what all my facts and charts didn’t: he opened people’s hearts to the possibility of a different community; of a different society. A society based not on revenge and killing and an “eye for an eye,” but a society predicated on empathy and compassion and equality — what my friend, Eddie ellis, called “human Justice.” I was never so moved as when I heard this man speak so openly about being torn down only to arise again. What a lesson! And, no, he wasn’t a religious man, at least not in a rigid sense.
I think this man was able to touch upon the essential nature of vengeance and forgiveness. Vengeance comes from desire — a desire to make things “right” no matter what the expense. If you killed mine, then I must kill you or yours. And in the short term, vengeance may seem to alleviate our pain. But in the long term the desire for vengeance — like all unskillful desire — erodes our basic humanity. It eats at us from the inside until we become empty of anything even remotely resembling an enlightened species. Compassion and empathy comes from the part of the brain that triggers love, creativity, collaboration and, physiologically, it releases chemicals and responses that heal — that strengthen the immune system, and encourages fellowship.
I would suggest a different form of spirituality: one that recognizes a universal energy in everything, the humility to admit mistakes, one that promotes flexibility instead of rigidity, and a willingness to tolerate differences.
And isn’t that a story that mirrors any kind of redemption? Couldn’t such a shift be an evolutionary quantum leap? In fact, this is where we stand today: at the precipice of an evolutionary and spiritual chasm, and leap we must or become the first species to cause its own extinction.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…