When tempted to judge myself or a brother or sister, reading John Kehoe’s words (from his book A Vision of Power and Glory) has at times been such a help to me in providing the spaciousness I need to allow in compassion and forgiveness.
John’s piece below reminds me that we all struggle and we are all humanly fallible. A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are not ‘human’ – we are eternal, invulnerable Spirit. However it is through our human-ness, aka our illusory body, that we experience healing, and it is through our human-ness/body that we extend love and forgiveness – this being the true use of the body.
The journey of remembrance – and of life itself – is an ‘epic odyssey’ as John Kehoe describes so well. I have always loved this piece and my hope is that his words are helpful to you too.
An extract from ‘A Vision of Power and Glory’ by John Kehoe
‘Let me speak of wounds and scars, for it is time that we love ourselves deeply.
An unsavoury, emotionally charged incident can produce in five minutes shame that lasts for forty years. Shame is the name we give to the sense that we are unworthy and inadequate human beings. It is a crippling condition, all too common, and belongs not with those who desire to walk this path of beauty.
A marriage breaks up. You lose your job and are unable to find a new one. A lover or close friend mocks you. You put on weight and look at yourself in the mirror and don’t like what you see. You fail at something that was very important to you. You let someone down badly. Someone lets you down badly. Our journey through life includes such things. We will fail as well as succeed. And we will have times when we’re wounded internally; of this you can be sure. Battle scars I like to call them. But wounds are meant to be healed and we can be stronger for them. There need be no shame in failing or being wounded. One’s life is an epic odyssey. Battles won and lost. Opportunities missed and seized. Fortune and misfortune are both ours to experience.
If you have no scars, no time you’ve battled shame, no bitter regrets or humiliating failures, then what kind of life have you been living? You are not of my tribe and belong not at my table. I sup with those who have failed as well as succeeded, whose battle scars cover their bodies and who are proud to have lived and lived gloriously, through all that life has offered. Those that have bound their wounds, and moved on.
But shame that festers will not heal, and here we must be vigilant. Such shame tears and wounds the psyche, as if one had swallowed barbed wire, and your every movement feels its presence. But what of my faults, my inadequacies, what of them, for they are there? I resolve to love them. To accept them as a part of who I am. To believe I am beautiful not in spite of them, but because of them. They are part of my uniqueness, like markings on a wild animal. They give me flavour. They make me real.
Wounds heal when we forgive ourselves and others for our humanness. We allow ourselves and others to fail and make mistakes, to not be perfect. We forgive ourselves for lost opportunities, foolish decisions. We forgive ourselves for all our past and future errors. We recognise our vulnerability and fragility, and, far from being a weakness, we see this as part of who we are. Our quirks and idiosyncrasies are all part of our distinctiveness. We are special and beautiful because of our humanness, not in spite of it. In fact this is where our true beauty lies.
Let us see the gifts that wounds bring. They spur us, change us, give us compassion for ourselves and others. They renew us as a spring rain. They add to us immeasurably. We are the better for them. And besides, wounds heal. But you ask, what if the wound will not heal, what then? Then let it bleed. Let it bleed and soak the earth in its pain and sorrow. But let there be no pity or bitterness. If you can do this then your pain will become an offering, a cleansing, and the greater whole will benefit and be nourished. Offer it joyously. Everyone must at one time or another carry a burden. No one is immune. It is the law of our being. And some carry greater loads than others – this too is the law. Ours is not to understand but to walk the path we find ourselves upon.
A wound untainted with pity or bitterness brings the blessing of deep compassion and understanding. We see the human condition, ourselves included, and we feel the pain and suffering of others deep within us. Suddenly we see hundreds, thousands, worse off than ourselves, and all the time we thought our suffering was great. Now we feel a shift for we see we are blessed.
The wound becomes a new window through which we see the world reborn, and released from self-absorption, we marvel at what joys and wonders we now see. A friend coming over to visit, the smell of fresh flowers, the sound of rain on the roof, these things touch and bless us deeply. Paradoxically life becomes more rewarding and not less during these times, and we wonder why we ever worried over such trivial matters in the past, and we thank the universe for our present blessings. But if the unhealed wound is stained with self-pity, anger, resentment, bitterness, then indeed we walk through the very paths of hell, and great is our anguish. Inner demons torment us, ridicule us, defile us, and our sorrow swallows us up. All becomes ugly and the sun and moon and all things beautiful are hidden from us, and there are no treasures or joys on this path, for it the path of blackness and death.
But always there is a way out, and always the path is within, through ourselves.
Great and holy is the Mystery that shows us these things and teaches us the way to the light.’ ♥