Sunday, December 11, 2011

You Must Forgive Them All

You must forgive them all; for though their hearts are faithful,
to face fear ... is not what they were made for.
Tom Bombadil

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Recently, I saw The Way, a beautiful movie about a father who, after the death of his son, finished his son's journey walking the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route of Saint James that ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

When he arrived, the camera began to take the movie audience inside, and I had the strange sensation of really not wanting to go any further. I recognized that I was having strong feelings of judgmental anger towards the Roman Catholic Church.

The enormous cathedral, with all its ornaments and statues, was a monument to the horrific abuse of power that it had wielded over the centuries. Its wretched victims came to mind: the heretics burned for their beliefs, the tens of thousands of innocents executed for witchcraft in Europe and the American Colonies, the men and women tortured during the Inquisition, the victims of the Crusades, and the countless trusting children sexually abused by monks and priests all over the world.

The movie rolled on, but I was frozen in that moment, hating, and not comprehending, the monsters who were capable of such cruelty.

It dawned on me how completely the road ahead was blocked. Until I forgave them all, I would never advance another step. It was clear to me that I not only had to forgive them - I also had to love and unreservedly embrace each one of them as if my own child, in fact, as myself, because as uncomfortable as it was to acknowledge, each one was myself.

Sitting there in the theatre, I did forgive them. It felt like a weight had been lifted, and I watched the rest of the movie a bit stunned, but at peace.

Of course, that isn't the end of the story.

A few days later, I went to a choir concert where I knew some of the singers. I noticed that I felt resentment towards a couple of them for one reason or another. Turning the love light on them, as I watched them sing, they transformed from people I avoided, into people I cherish.

There are many that I have not forgiven, hidden away in my forgetfulness. I need to seek them out in the dark corners of the hall and invite them onto the dance floor for a hug and a lively polka, and in the joy of the dance, forgive myself as well, for harbouring resentments for so long.

Shall we dance?


  1. This brought great tears to my eyes, so powerful your words, thank you for posting.

  2. wow and all for the price of admission to a movie (I am teasing of course). what a lovely, heartfelt post. and to forgive unconditionally. I haven't recently been put in a position to raise my anger, but I hear the little voice in my head going "I don't know if I could do that". Bravo for you, David.

  3. Another heart felt post. I ejoyed reading it and thanks for being so honest and sharing.

  4. Thank you, David. You really shine the light on the path! I've been watching that anger and resentment surface in me over and over in the last few days - all about things over which I really have no control. Other than the anger surfacing, of course. Your words truly help. Deep bow, my friend!

  5. It is the most difficult thing to forgive sometimes...especially when the evil is so present. I have read of parents forgiving the killer of their son - not sure I could do that. I understand the practice, I know the benefit of it when it can be mananged. I remember after 9/11 when the Dali Lama issued a statement, in essence forgiving the highjackers. I thought, "wow. he is walking the talk big time."

    Sometimes I work it, sometimes I do not. It's all about practice, isn't it?

  6. Wonderful awareness and so very True!

    Thank you for your honest sharing so that we may all grow.

  7. Gosh, so many comments!

    Dear Caine, I had a few tears too. Thank you.

    Thanks Carole. This time yes, next time ... who knows? Here's hoping.

    Thanks very much, Thane.

    Thank you Lynette. Tracking down and dissolving old resentments is one thing - preventing new ones from taking hold is another, which should be easy as long as we're constantly mindful and not self-absorbed - ha ha! A deep bow back.

    Hi Tara, I heard about a story like that too, where the parents visited their child's killer in jail and when he was released, adopted him. I agree it's all about practice, and it never seems to let up.

    Thank you for your kind words, Elliott - nice to meet you! I like your blog over at Secrets to Peace.

  8. Wow, this was deeply personal. Thank you for sharing. I think this type of thought will help many people heal.

  9. Thanks, Lola. I think by sharing ourselves we all heal each other, no matter how small we think our contribution is.

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