Active forgiveness: how to intentionally practice love

Today, as I look with great sadness at the anger erupting in communities in the United States, I realise that Christian leaders need to stand up and overturn a few more tables within the temple! Obviously, we haven’t overturned the tables of oppression!

Oppression can take so many forms: whether it’s the orphans (or children who are being trafficked), the widows (or human trafficking), the poor, the sojourners/immigrants/foreigners, or someone who you haven’t even recognised as your equal (race, education or any other standard).

The first table that needs to be overturned is the alter on which our individual egos sit.

Ego – that part of us that fails to understand that illness would become wellness if we would replace “I” with “WE”.

The illness of division could be the wellness of unity and cooperation, if we are willing to start within: with an awareness of our own feelings, anger, hatred and division. It is my ego that tells me that I am separate from those in pain.

When I saw the first posts about the events, questions came to mind – even along the lines of “is this another false flag operation” to get people to focus their attention onto something divisive, rather than awakening to creating the world and society in which we wish to live.

But the reality is that these events show the brokenness of the “normal” to which we wish to return.

How is it possibly okay for a white man (just because he has a uniform) to kneel on the neck of another man, already cuffed and in custody, until he stops breathing? Even if this was “created” to divert attention from something else: this requires our collective attention and healing! It is no less oppression, irrespective of the purpose which it serves.

My arrogance: daring to think that I am somehow above these events, says “not my problem”. But that’s not true.

It is exactly my privilege that is the problem!

It’s the fact that this would NOT happen to me that makes me the ideal person to say “something needs to change”. Deep within, I know that it’s time to heal within me the coldness and apathy that say “not my injustice”!

The collective pain

What springs to view with these events is the pain that many are suffering, sight unseen.

Today I read about the father that goes for a walk with his young daughter and the dog because he’s fearful of walking around his neighbourhood alone. I read about the young man being the only person of colour in his school, and constantly being pulled over by the cops, while his friends never received the same treatment.

And I realise that we are called to overturn the tables that allow some to be down-trodden, while others continue to live with privilege.

I’m not saying that I should “lose” my privileges, but rather that they should be the same privileges afforded to every person, regardless of race, creed, or economic strata.

Perhaps we need to learn a little more about restorative justice: the process where entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness.

I’m talking about Ho’oponopono.

“Restorative justice is a philosophy that embraces a wide range of human emotions including healing, mediation, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation as well as sanction when appropriate. It also recognizes a world view that says we are all interconnected and that what we do be it for good or evil has an impact on others.”

— “Restorative Justice – The Pacific Way” Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Prison Abolition; Barcelona, Spain, 17 – 19 May 1995;  by Jim Consedine (see link at the end of this post)

I first learnt about restorative justice in law school in Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.  Thankfully, I was at a very culturally connected law school, where we openly spoke about community justice systems and how the Pākehā system failed to take into account restoration of balance within the community.  It simply punished the offender (like a criminal justice system). 

But the community continued to suffer and hurt: with the criminal justice system, nothing is actually done to restore balance within the community.

Most people only know Ho’oponopono as 4 lines:

  • I love you
  • I’m sorry
  • Please forgive me
  • Thank you

But it’s more than just repeating the mantras… It’s opening up our awareness and emotions.

Ho’oponopono Practice: The Practice of Forgiveness

The origins of the Huna practice known as Ho’oponopono are a community reconciliation process. It is very similar to other Pacific Island restorative processes – which involved entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness when harmony in the community has been broken.

Coming to Ho’oponopono from a lawyers perspective of community justice, I knew that it was so much more than simply 4 lines:

  • I love you
  • I’m sorry
  • Please forgive me
  • Thank you 

Not because I knew anything about the Hawaiian Huna practice itself, but simply because I recognized that there was so much more to restoration than simply saying “sorry”!  It’s much more than sending the “offender” to jail.

Restorative justice means righting the wrong that allows the crime to be committed in the first place. It addresses the question: “Why would four white men consider that it was okay, under any circumstances, to pin a man down under their knee until he stops breathing?”

True healing happens when we allow ourselves to experience what is happening in the community from every angle and clear the pain from every perspective:

  1. the perpetrator (Can I forgive him and his companions? Do I need to forgive myself for any hatred, anger or other feelings against them?);
  2. the victim (Can I forgive what others did to him? Do I need to forgive myself for any prejudice or feelings against him?)
  3. the bystanders (Is there any judgment in my heart against them? Do I feel that they failed in any way?)
  4. the family members (What forgiveness do I need to practice for the family of the victim or the perpetrators?)
  5. others in the community, including the protestors, police, first responders, or leaders (How do I consider that they have failed?)

It’s literally saying… I understand ALL of the pain and frustration – of every person involved and forgiving for each and every one of them for whatever I hold them at fault for. It is a process and quite possibly not something you can do in a single moment.

It begs the question: why were onlookers too afraid to intervene? It asks: “How did we create officers of the law that were so lacking in empathy and awareness, that they failed to hear this man begging and be moved by any compassion?”

be kind, love, forgiveness, ho'oponopono, practicing forgiveness, learning to forgive, I'm sorry, please forgive me, gratitude

Where do we start?

Forgiveness always starts within.

If you’re a Christian and you are moved to pray, then I invite you to start asking to be shown within yourself everything that needs to come to the surface and be dealt with! Before you go praying for peace in Minnesota or Minneapolis, ask to be shown the plank in your own eye that should be removed!

What are the little ways that you are failing to stand up for justice in your community? Where are you unconsciously supporting “the status quo”, rather than overturning the tables of inequality?

It’s so much easier to think that there’s a problem in Minnesota than to acknowledge that there is a problem in my own heart!

Don’t righteously pray to forgive those who are rioting and angrily violent: pray to understand the underlying emotions of that anger and violence, so that it touches your heart. Pray for empathy and understanding.

Yourself.

Hooponopono practice is the practice of forgiveness based on the knowledge that anything that happens to you or that you perceive — the entire world where you live — is your creation.  Whatever you have become aware of that exists in the world, has become your responsibility to set to right.

Everything in your life is entirely your responsibility: 100%. No exceptions.

Please don’t misunderstand what I mean.  I did not say it was your fault.  I said it’s your responsibility

You are 100% responsible for:

  • healing yourself and breaking down the barriers within your beliefs, emotions and fears;
  • changing the relationship you have with any other person of another race, religion or background that you have not been able to fully understand and relate to; and
  • changing your perception of the world, making it possible for you to overturn the tables of injustice.

Before you try to put in order what is wrong “out there in the world”, have a deep look within and see what needs to be put right within your heart.

homesless, beggar, guilt, forgiveness, prejudice, overturning tables of injustice, racism, discrimination
Who needs to feel your love and acceptance?

Ho’oponopono practise is a journey to restore inner peace and balance.  It begins by changing my inner world in order to effect change in the exterior world.

Three steps PLUS gratitude

How can we heal this pain with Ho’oponopono?

I love you

Start simply reminding yourself, regularly and consistently of Divine Love – “I love you”.  “I love you” just as you are today, with mistaken views and perceptions of the world, with perceptions that have not allowed you to grow and change your community, and with all the baggage that you have chosen to carry around.  I love you in spite of your fears and weakness. And because I love you, “I recognise that whatever comes to me in this life is my creation.”

Can you expand the circle of “I love you” to your neighbours?

What about to your whole suburb? Or the suburb next to yours? Can you extend that “I love you” to your town or city? How comfortable are you putting a face on “I love you”? What resistance are you feeling when you say “I love you”? Acknowledge it, so that you can forgive yourself fully.

I’m sorry

Once you recognise love and even those areas of lack of love, you can tell yourself “Sorry”.  Sorry for the errors of thought, words and actions that created those memories and held onto that energy. Sorry for failing to love fully and completely. I’m sorry for not practising unconditional love.

  • What do you need to forgive yourself for?
  • What do you need to ask your neighbour forgiveness for? What are you sorry for?

Don’t just say it: allow yourself to connect with the emotions. Perhaps you feel shame as you say “I’m sorry that I looked the other way” or “I’m sorry when I laughed nervously when someone said something rude to you, because I was too weak to stand up to them for you.”

Allow yourself simply to feel what needs to be felt. What you resist, persists in your life. If you fail to acknowledge what you are feeling, you cannot forgive yourself for it.

Please forgive me

It’s not just about asking for forgiveness: the miracle happens when you give yourself permission to release the burden you’ve been carrying. Forgiveness is about letting it go.

It’s impossible to turn over a new leaf unless we are willing to allow the old leaf to fall off the tree, decompose and become dust.

Take a moment to imagine a new relationship with yourself and with your neighbour. How will your view of the world change? How will you change your interaction with them?

Thank you

And then, of course, the practice of gratitude – gratitude for the freedom that this brings!  Gratitude for the change in my way of thinking, speaking and acting.  Thank you for the new opportunities this creates.  Thank you for the changes that will start happening in my relationships and how I relate to others.

coming together, building bridges, understanding, compassion, building communities, trust, love

Coming together as a community

Once we have taken care of the sty in our own eyes, maybe we can come together in small community groups and begin to work on this collectively: slowly building the size of the groups that do this together, until we have rebuilt love and trust.

But if we aren’t willing to overturn the tables of the status quo – nothing will change.

I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery – where we can learn together what it means to heal the world and restore balance to hurting communities, by starting within.

2 comments

  1. I don’t think it’s time for forgiveness because nothing has changed. You can forgive when people create the changes where institutional racism and abuse of power can no longer operate as the status quo.

    Anger is the only motivation that can lead to change, it just needs to be channeled to maintain it’s momentum. Otherwise it’ll fizzle out, and the state of oppression will return, and we wait for the next time an unarmed black man is killed by the police.

    At present, just being black, especially if you’re black and make, means you exist in the constant knowledge that you could be killed for no reason, and justice won’t even be sorted without people protesting. That is not a way anyone in any community should live.

    If your a Christian, instead of praying, how about actively standing up and helping us get rid of Christian leaders who spread hate that props up the institutional racism that is epidemic in America? These loud mouth preachers are hate are so vocal that it taints all American Christians

    Our black skin isn’t the mark of cain

    1. I agree – I think Christian leaders need to be overturning the tables… They need to be leading the healing process, rather than “praying for others”.

      And it starts when THEY ADMIT that they have done nothing – and ask for forgiveness for doing nothing.

      It starts when they do the inner work to break down their internal barriers and go out into the community and break down external barriers.

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