It is true that I hold a conviction that forms my thinking, my orientation toward life, my passion, my work; one that is not agreeable with all… and it is that every person has a purpose on this earth, not to simply do or make or create, but to be. To be in relationship… with God, with their true selves, with other people, animals, nature.
At peace without detached passivity. Engaged.
Full, not emptied, of humanity. Transformed and renewed more by our stillness that we so evade than by the comfort of our frenetic activity.
Imperfect and aware. Understanding the difference between a plank and a speck… clear and humbling.
Within the conviction that the essential purpose of life is to be in relationship, I also hold that each of us has vast freedom to believe, disbelieve, try, give up, go forward, turn back, say yes, say no, choose love or apathy, clutch fear and stubbornness, or let go and open up to new possibilities. We also are blessed with consequences and resulting emotions that are often labeled as negative. Instead of accepting the wise guidance these emotions offer, we so often try to get rid of them before they have done their good work in us.
When we do harm, intentionally or unintentionally, remorse comes to help repair wounds we cause to ourselves and to others, but it can dig too deep, staying far too long if we fail to be truly accountable for our actions. It morphs into something else, a seething regret and even self-pity that deviously take away our present moments and our hope for the future. We can choose to face the hurt and anger we cause, understand the impact and bear the consequences honorably. This allows remorse to do its job and is our only way through to freedom and peace, and it is the only way of love.
It is dangerous to our souls to numb the remorse and assuage our blessed guilt. Guilt in itself is not our enemy; it is the natural feeling that comes when we have not done as we should, or have done something we shouldn’t. We must then act promptly to repent with no looking back—to turn away and not repeat what we have done—or guilt begins to twist and deform within us and we become like Gollum in the cave. Then we wonder how we got to be so far from the path. When guilt is faced properly, it chastens us, humbles us, gives birth to empathy and compassion.
It is not what happens to us, what is done to us, that takes our life and our beauty from us. We may not have been loved or raised to be strong. We may have learned to be fearful and even cowardly. We may have been taught to be stingy and greedy or have lost much and feel entitled to what remains, to be self-righteous and right. But for most of us, these lessons and teachers are behind us and have no power now but what we give them.
We can re-learn how to live well. Our choices will lead us in our re-learning and new feelings will follow. We can choose to be courageous and some day we may actually feel courageous or at least less fearful. We can choose to listen, to envision a world where differences aren’t a threat, and by doing so create a world that is more loving and less threatening.
We can choose to be generous and we may one day desire to take less from ourselves and others. When we give of what we have to offer, we get so much more. We lose this gift to ourselves when we withhold what is ours to give. It reveals that essential truth that when we forget ourselves, the beauty of who we truly are is discovered.