Sunday, March 15, 2009

Courage by Anne Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.

The child's first step,

as awesome as an earthquake.

The first time you rode a bike,

wallowing up the sidewalk.

The first spanking when your heart

went on a journey all alone.

When they called you crybaby

or poor or fatty or crazy

and made you into an alien,

you drank their acid

and concealed it.


if you faced the death of bombs and bullets

you did not do it with a banner,

you did it with only a hat to

cover your heart.

You did not fondle the weakness inside you

though it was there.

Your courage was a small coal

that you kept swallowing.

If your buddy saved you

and died himself in so doing,

then his courage was not courage,

it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.


if you have endured a great despair,

then you did it alone,

getting a transfusion from the fire,

picking the scabs off your heart,

then wringing it out like a sock.

Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,

you gave it a back rub

and then you covered it with a blanket

and after it had slept a while

it woke to the wings of the roses

and was transformed.


when you face old age and its natural conclusion

your courage will still be shown in the little ways,

each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,

those you love will live in a fever of love,

and you'll bargain with the calendar

and at the last moment

when death opens the back door

you'll put on your carpet slippers

and stride out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

on forgiving and being forgiven

forgiveness is a great concept, but cannot be taken lightly or as the easiest, shortest way toward conflict resolution

forgiveness, I believe, must be asked for to be given

forgiveness, as healing a process as it may seem to be, is first and foremost a process and not an event

dramatic forgiveness displays (like the one I read about involving the woman who was the girl in the napalm photos from the Vietnam War who publicly forgave the pilot who dropped the napalm) are great and powerful, but forgiveness generally does not happen in such dramatic and succinct, cathartic ways. Nor should it

forgiveness means hard and potentially frustrated work in the long-term process to right and alter the course of a chain of events spawned by the original wrongs and the perpetuation of those wrongs that by their nature grow ugly, strong and insinuated into the very fabric of the generations of actions and people that may pass between the time the seed of harm is sown and the forgiveness worked toward, spoken and finally safeguarded once it occurs
forgiveness cannot be considered to be an automatic phenomenon that comes about through the mere asking or giving

forgiveness, asking and giving, is action not words

effective granting of forgiveness means never allowing oneself to be hurt again in the same way that one was hurt by those who wish to be forgiven

asking for forgiveness requires an acceptance of the fact that it may not be enough, may not be deserved, and that even asking may not be acceptable as an adequate gesture in relationship to the dramatic and permanent changes set in motion by the manner in which those who were hurt were hurt

those who ask for forgiveness must do it in the spirit of understanding that asking for it does not mean they will be saved from the consequences of admitting their culpability... in fact it means that they bow to those consequences and accept them willingly and humbly

forgiveness is weak and shallow when it is used with the hope of forgetting the harm done. Forgiveness is only useful when it allows remembrance

most of all, forgiveness can not and should not been seen as an easier road toward resolution of harms committed than justice. Justice is separate but inseparable from forgiveness; they may overlap and may rely on one another for true and sustained resolution.

those who ask for forgiveness as a way to release themselves from facing their responsibility for the ongoing chain of events that their harmful actions seeded and set in motion do not ask for forgiveness but for deliverance and an un-earned freedom from the chain reaction of their guilt.

forgiveness un-asked for cannot be given, but letting go is always an option. Letting go works as a way for those who have been harmed to prevent how they have been harmed from continuing to harm them, or as a way to strategize and manage the nature of how the harm’s scars affect movement and feeling. Letting go implies building good and flexible, non self-harming, defenses against the perpetrators of harm and often implies and/or requires external or internal non-violent estrangement.