“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit”. –Peter Ustinov
An idea I bumped into one day quite out of the blue: that we are defined and bookmarked in life by the direction of our finger-pointing. I have learned to understand my position in life’s stream by taking account of where my own finger is pointing at any given time. It is a great barometer of happiness and an effective thermometer of how healthy we are spiritually. Because I am inclined to ponder and assess my life through reflection, I can look back at some things and see the truths that I conveniently waved at on my way past them. Now those truths sometimes glare at me; sometimes slap me in the face; and sometimes just whisper in my ear. Oftentimes I thank God for the insight and other times I am shocked that I still haven’t learned the lessons I thought I’d passed. Life is humbling, isn’t it?
The beginning of finger-pointing starts early in life: It seems to be part of our human fabric. We embark on our journey with the innate ability to point our fingers at others. When we were children, it was so much easier to blame life’s mishaps and our own mistakes on others. Phrases like, “I didn’t start it!”, “He/she did it”, “It’s not my fault”, and “Don’t blame me” echo down the hallways and back seats of our earliest memories. And even as young adults, we blame our parents, teachers, friends, God, circumstances, the “system”, the a-hole cop or judge, and whomever else steps across our path that we think has caused us to be the way we are or react the way we did. As I reflect on my own experience, I am torn between laughing heartily and weeping uncontrollably. Oh, how much time could have been saved and put to better use if I had only recognized the trap of an unforgiving spirit a little sooner! The final result of pointing fingers at others is invariably resentment. Resentment not good. My first real look in the mirror came while reading the following passage:
“Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics (insert any “thorn in your side” here) than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.” -Alcoholics Anonymous, parenthetic statement added.
“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.” -Buddha
When we blame others, judge them, and not forgive them, we inadvertently give those same people power over us. I remember a counselor of mine remarked one time that, “When you don’t forgive other people, it is like you being a remote-control toy and the controller is in the other person’s hand.” There are so many reasons to forgive; it would take hundreds of pages to even scrape the surface. However, I will brush-stroke a few. First of all, the real business of maturing and growing requires us to focus on ourselves. It is impossible to really do any “heavy lifting” in this department until we can concentrate on our own issues. Secondly, as Christians, the Lord can’t do much of anything with us until we leap this hurdle. We all know that in order to be forgiven, we must forgive. Regardless of your denomination, I think everyone can agree that Mark 11:25-26 is as straightforward as it gets: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” And thirdly, forgiveness is possibly one of the few intrinsic, genuine powers that we possess. It can change your life, others’ lives, history, the world, you name it! There is very little in life that one can honestly say they have control over, but we all possess the awesome power of forgiveness. There is freedom in forgiveness, peace in forgiveness, love in forgiveness, and at the top of the list, perfect healing in forgiveness.
When we move past our pointing-fingers at others, we can now begin the daunting task of pointing our finger at ourselves. Many people get trapped here, like being in purgatory, in-between heaven and hell. It is a two-fold process that in one instant is about taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions and in the next instant, about forgiving ourselves and letting God teach us how to “let go” of what we ultimately see inside of our innermost being. We first have to search out what is wrong with us and second, we have to search out that liberating forgiveness for ourselves.
“The moment an individual can accept and forgive himself, even a little, is the moment in which he becomes to some degree lovable.” -Eugene Kennedy
If we are honest, I think we would all agree that the deeper we go into the healing process of self-assessment, the more painful it becomes! Looking into the mirror without prejudice, light reveals some very nasty business. Many people turn away and never face the reality of the human heart seen from a spiritual perspective, but it is absolutely necessary in order to continue to grow. We are great starters, but poor finishers. Just when you think you have cleaned-up all the cobwebs and dusted the hard-to-reach places, the sunrise pours through the window exposing missed spots and dust floating around in the rays of sunshine. I hate when that happens! I remember going to the dentist as a child and the dental assistant telling me to go and brush my teeth, “Do a good job, and then we are going to see how well you did by giving you this purple pill to chew”. Inevitably, regardless of how vigorously and thoroughly I brushed, I chew the purple pill with the utmost confidence just to have that confidence shot down with a mouth full of purple missed spots! So is the inward journey of seeing who you really are: One must be brave. We are all a “work in progress”. I am convinced that most of our mountains (problems) in life are simply reflections of our inward, spiritual mountains. They must be traversed, scaled, climbed, detailed, examined, and honestly appraised. We can’t engage things that we are frightened of alone…we must have help…or may live the rest of our lives in the shadows of the mountains we have refused to address. We therefore must not give up on this part of our finger-pointing; we must not turn away from the challenge. Know your enemy, and unfortunately in this part of the finger-pointing phase, we ourselves are the enemy. Engaging the mountains within takes perseverance and much help from above.
To be continued…