No One an Island

Four hundred years ago, John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island …. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

It still resonates today, though the bell is tweeting now. Our planet has broken out in suppurating sores of hate. And we are all involved, or so Desmond Tutu believes.

He urges us to join his global challenge of forgiveness. South Africa has proved it can be done – their process of Truth and Reconciliation bridged an almost unimaginable divide of injury and guilt.

This, oddly, links with my last post about “acting as if we are whole.” Forgiving often feels as if we are accepting what has been done to us – that somehow we deserve it. And we are afraid that if we forgive, we are accepting that treatment. Or that we will relax our guard and get hurt again.

So, often we keep our defences up; we keep the hurt in mind as a warning. We don’t dare let ourselves feel soft and open again. It can be a tug of war: we want to be able to be relaxed and affectionate, but can we risk being knifed again?

It took me far too long to realize, after years of churning stomach, that I could let go. I was talking despairingly to God: “I don’t want to feel like this any more, but I don’t dare forgive!”

“Why not?” came back. A light clicked on in me: why not indeed? And I realized that the obstacle was not the old hurt, but that I was letting it define me – as a victim.

But no! There was no need to stay imprisoned, captive to hurt – as long as I didn’t let it shape my identity. If I didn’t let it affect my self-evaluation, I could rise above the deed. I could be whole, and being whole, be safe.

Now, I am not sure how my forgiving my (mother, colleague, friend) could possibly bring peace in Gaza, but I am working on the “dove” effect. There’s already the butterfly effect: where a butterfly flapping its wings in Peru can cause a tornado in Japan.

The dove effect would be that peace and forgiveness in one place may affect people miles away. It would be similar to the meditation effect: in cities with high levels of meditators, the crime rate goes down.

Atmosphere carries: if you go to a friend’s house, you can tell instantly if they have been quarrelling, no matter how smoothed over it seems. If I am a grouch at the supermarket checkout, how many subsequent customers will feel the riccochet?

What about random acts of gratuitous grace, paying forward forgiveness with a whole heart. That in forgiving we may be forgiven.

To walk the path of forgiveness is to recognize that my life is bound up in your life, and every wrongdoing hurts us all. Forgiveness is how we heal the world, one relationship at a time. (Taken from Global Forgiveness Challenge website.)

More info:

The Global Forgiveness Challenge – link

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission – link

The Butterfly Effect – link

Meditation and crime – link

About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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