While our minister, Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, is on sabbattical, we will fill our Musings space with insights from our members.
Forgiveness and The Principles
Perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of forgiveness occurred ten years ago this month. In Nickel Mines, PA, a man shot at ten Amish school girls, killing five before shooting himself. The Amish families forgave the shooter and reached out to his family consoling them on the loss of their son immediately after the tragedy. Some attended his funeral. The Amish believe they must forgive in order to receive their own salvation. As Jesus prayed to His Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
During Yom Kippur in October Jews reflect on their wrongs, repent and may ask for forgiveness from others they’ve wronged during the year. Forgiveness and making amends is also a cornerstone of 12-step traditions. In Islam, a follower must rectify the situation with the person that was wronged before asking Allah for forgiveness for the sin.
The first two Unitarian Universalist Principles, The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person and Justice, Equity and Compassion in Human Relations seem to imply that we seek forgiveness and forgive others. These Principles are important reminders of how to interact among ourselves and with the larger world.
It is not easy to let go of grudges and to admit when we have hurt someone. Much like many habits that are good for us, forgiving takes practice. Start with the easy ones - bear with a co-worker’s annoying habits, excuse your spouse’s mistakes. Make the least dangerous assumption and assume the driver who cut you off was rushing home to care for a sick loved one. Own up to your part in an old family or neighborhood disagreement that may be keeping people apart. Don’t wait until someone has passed on and the chance has gone by as well. Please don’t forget to forgive yourself for not being perfect.
Another way to make amends is to work for justice for a group, such as Native Americans, that has been harmed by actions of our ancestors. Sort of “fixing it forward”. My own personal hope is that I can refrain from eating animals due to the way they’re treated by an industry I support through the power of purchase. It’s been a long-term struggle for me.
Many of us act in ways which do not reflect some of our UU Principles. We can admit it and try to make reparations. It may take much practice and the assistance of others. Our third Principle should offer help - Acceptance of One Another and Encouragement to Spiritual Growth in our Congregations. How lucky we are to have one another in this, our faith community! Peace to you!