I have a new assignment. And the mission of that assignment as John Lennon might say is to “Get Back“. I will continue to write an educational piece for Chaplains each month. But my regular Sunday Morning and Wednesday afternoon columns will resume telling stories and sharing thoughts about the power of hope, love, caring, and compassion. Perhaps, together, we will make the world a little happier place. That would be nice.
“I’ve decided to be loving and kind in the world. Now…just hopin’…the world will return the favor.” ~ Jermaine (a former LA gang member, now part of Gregory Boyle’s Homeboy Industries)
Don’t you wonder what life might be like if we all made the sort of decision that Jermaine made? He became gentle and kind in a community which directed him to be otherwise. Our misfortunes, wounds, ambitions, and desires ask us to judge and expect judgment. We seek reparation rather than reconciliation. Ultimately, we are led into darkness, becoming someone we would rather not be.
Paybacks and getting even are lonely ways to live life. This desire for in-kind justice can be a slippery slope requiring us to wait for the one who has injured us to get what is coming. My counseling office has hosted an overabundance of such unhappy people. Both victims and perpetrators sit with me. Each one has uniquely deep cuts and emotional scars. All of them hope for some kind of karma (good or bad) to provide atonement.
So what about atonement? It’s not, as many believe, paying for past wrongs, sins, and mistakes. Rather, it is being at one with yourself, your neighbor and your God. At-one-ment. This requires much effort in a tit-for-tat, quid pro quo world. Because you have to stop blaming others. There is never someone else. It is always me. I will only receive atonement when I accept that I am connected with all of creation. The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book says this well when a suffering physician tells the reader about his transformation:
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, It is because I find some person, place, thing, situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, page 417)
Acceptance is the key to finding God’s abundance of unconditional, infinite mercy, and love. After everything is said and done, it is the path to at-one-ment for each of us.