Forgiveness Is As Natural As Breathing, But It Takes Work

In a single act — forgiveness — anchors our strength, clears our way, and removes blocks put in our way by others and by our reaction. Through it, we honor our martyrs, and reclaim self-determination, purpose, and tomorrow. That’s why we forgive.
Drawing by Madeleiine, age 7.

Memo to Malik Shabazz: We in Charleston are a tolerant community and will listen to anyone; we are willing provide a place for them to be heard, but take note: we speak back. We speak back without blame. But in the spirit of love on which we stand, rooted in our long history and memory, honoring the wisdom of our sacrifice and survival, the lessons of those who taught us by example and as witnesses to their results, we correct the misinterpretations brought to us and chastise those who are in error and arrogant in their willingness to misguide us. Without exploring deeply the ideas upon which we act, they cannot know how we measure results.

We often find we have to clarity for those who see from the lowest landings of the crystal stair and those who have never ridden the air, leaped forward beyond their immediate anger to find the territorial landing of inner truth that is the platform of real courage and sustenance of our struggle, coexisting in the personal and the collective. Its great message lives to defy those who think it cannot survive its appearance of contradictions, those who have not yet lived the lessons of wisdom and courage of the timeless forces that our survival is a witness to.

So let’s begin: you say forgiveness is “unnatural.” We forgive your disrespect. We are a people of good humor. Even when someone brings us a notion that leads back the thorny places we left. Study our teachings, as you reply to our common, persistent problems to define a path of action. In the history of our martyrs, embrace our wisdom. Certainly don’t replace it with critical labels that imply judgement or analysis that clearly has not been done beyond the point of passion.

Forgiveness is as common as the air around us, the sun above us, the life within us, and the struggle before us. It does require work to achieve, just as climbing rock faces without harnesses, or walking tightropes without nets. It is the use our intelligence brought to focus as a spiritual discipline. It is advanced. It’s not baby steps or the infant’s cry. And remember because its natural doesn’t mean it ain’t hard.

It is hard. That’s the point. That’s the payoff. The results exceed the effort. And the effort is mighty.

Forgiveness is a spiritual act. By its own accord, any spiritual act is “unnatural,” in that it is non-material, not attached worldly things or outcomes. Forgiveness is an act of caution and submission. It is the search to live an ideal of humility and selflessness so intense that it might appear “unnatural,” but it is, in fact, a reset of courage and bravery of the highest order because it exorcises every thought of anger and blame, or revenge and hate, of pain and suffering to surrender and purge these feelings. Forgiveness is an antidote, a life-saving portion that inures our hearts against what will consume us — introduced by others for that purpose.

Forgiveness allows us to move forward, in the freedom of moment that could not be reached without it. Forgiveness also allows us to get out of the way and watch the great spiritual return of those chosen as martyrs. As their spirit is released across the land, we have dutifully removed the obstacles in their way. The biggest benefit is to ourselves; it is a natural act of love, given for them. Why should we carry pain or be shaped in our response to life by the acts and evils transmitted to us by others? Forgiveness means we have immediately returned to self-guidance. Our feet are again firmly on our path.

In a single act — forgiveness — anchors our strength, clears our way, and releases blocks put in our way by others and by our reaction. Through it, we honor our martyrs, and reclaim self-determination, purpose, and tomorrow. That’s why we forgive. It is natural, hard; the right thing to do.

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