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The bravest are the small
The weakest are the strong
The most fearful find the courage
To battle what is wrong

Excerpt from the end of Chapter Twenty in The Burning (6th book in the series known as The Guardians of Ga’Hoole) – Kathryn Lasky

Good people do bad things all the time. We all do wrong, we all stumble, we all have fears. All the time. But I don’t believe that doing wrong and having fears make us evil. Conversely, I don’t believe in self-justification; doing wrong is doing wrong, no matter what excuses you make for it or how extenuating the circumstances were. But as the saying goes,

Hate the deed, not the person.

Evil people…that’s a totally different ball game. I don’t want to advocate hate. I’m also not so generous and kind to not have certain strong negative feelings towards unrepentant people who commit certain atrocities without remorse. So let’s leave them for another discussion on another day.

We did something bad or we didn’t do anything to stop something bad from happening, so what now? Sometimes, life doesn’t offer second chances and we know we can’t go back in time to make things right. Spend our lives with a mental whip and flog ourselves at every opportunity? Make atonement our lifelong mission? How dreary, right?

Guilty. That’s what most people feel after doing something that they know is wrong in their hearts. It’s common to go on a repetitive mental loop and say, ‘I should/shouldn’t have…’. That’s pointless because what’s passed has passed. What you should realise, my friend, is that the you who committed/experienced that bad incident is the you who belong in the past. That bad incident, whether of our doing or not, has changed us. Not our actions, no, not at this point. But definitely our thoughts and our motivations. We wouldn’t be on that stupid mental loop if it hasn’t.

Do something about it. Don’t overcompensate and engage in self-defeating behaviour for the bad that you did or the good that you didn’t. Forgive yourself. Many of us understand the value of forgiving others and try to take a step in that direction, but we often forget to forgive ourselves. That’s a huge oversight because I think forgiveness of both others and the self is a big part of healing. Accept reality as it has happened, let go of the anger and bitterness, and move on. Hey, I said that it’s a big part of healing; I didn’t say that it’s going to be the easy part.

Forgive yourself, but don’t cross over the line of forgiveness into self-justification. Don’t forget the bad things, remember your part in contributing to the unhappiness quotient in this world, and keep a reminder in your head that you’d like to change. Maybe you can’t make amends to the same person whom you did wrong to, but you can try hard to never subject anybody else to the same treatment/circumstances again. Never say never, but the point here is to TRY.

Maybe you’d call that atonement for past transgressions. Perhaps. I call it evolving. I may be a lowly mortal, and I don’t have aspirations to become an angel, heavenly or otherwise. What I do want though, is to become a better and happier person. And I can do that only by dealing with my issues, every time they come up. I’m not perfect, and I can’t ever be, but I can learn to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven, to help and receive help, and to accept what is without losing hope in what could be or drowning in the mud of what has been and still is.

The verse that I shared at the beginning of this post brought tears to my eyes when I read it. Notwithstanding the fact that what was happening at that point in the book moved me deeply, it also gave me hope that as insignificant and imperfect as I am, I can do some good, I can forge ahead despite great storms that try to break me, and I can stand up for what I believe is right even if nobody else backs me up or condemns me for my stance.

I can, and I will.