Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Evolution of Awareness

This might be awkward, disjointed, incoherent... so, I apologize in advance if this is unreadable.

Julie has been coordinating a series of roundtable discussions on justice, forgiveness, compassion, etc. The first series was to compare justice and forgiveness and answer the question of which was of greater necessity. The second series provided several prompts to choose from. I didn't manage to get anything in for that one. The latest pass was to approach it more personally and to share your story with one of these concepts. It was difficult for me to participate last week for a couple of reasons, but one was that I think I took a pretty personal approach in my first offering. I haven't been sure what to say.

I read some of the other entries for the week and I did get some ideas. I tried putting together something really powerful using Douglas Coupland and Annie Dillard quotes and everything. Alas, that intellectual souffle' collapsed. A souffle is pretty tricky and you really have to know what you are doing. Apparently, I do not! ;)

Still, I do feel strongly about participating. I don't want to disappoint Julie. She has put a lot of energy and thought into the Hump Day Hmmm posts and I want to honor that. Plus, I am challenged by what Julie and others have to say. Julie reminds me of another very bright friend I have. He and I engage in philosophical discussions and it is all I can do to hold my own. I feel like I'm swimming in a pool dog-paddling while my friend is swimming laps at Olympic pace. I think I benefit from these discussions though. They are good intellectual exercise for me. I may not be swimming with perfect form yet, but I think I'm dog-paddling faster.

So, what I wanted to say, only much more eloquently, is that my journey with forgiveness and justice and compassion and mercy has been one of gradual awareness. First, as concepts, followed by experience. As a child, I was very fearful. Much of my emotional and intellectual energy was spent managing this fear. As I entered junior high, I had more capacity to think about other things. I tended though, to reflect the opinions of the adults around me. I trusted them and didn't know to question their perspectives. High School brought more sophisticated thought. I realized I had opinions other than those of some of the adults and kids around me. It was during my high school years that "Mary" truly began taking shape as a questioner and participant in philosophical talks. Being a part of a youth group at church really encouraged this because we spent a lot of time talking about God and how he works in the world.

As I mentioned in my first roundtable post, I felt very comfortable with justice at this time. I loved justice and wanted to see it meted out quite regularly, with consistency and without much mercy. (I kind of laugh about this now. For Pete's sake, I was a card-carrying evangelical Christian, and while I know that many people have had less than compassionate experiences with the Church, I was never taught to be so severe in my faith. I knew about grace and compassion, really I did. I think that I was kind of wired up that way. I wanted things to be fair, plus, the arrogance of youth is just that: arrogant.)

I don't think it was really until I was in my twenties that I became more familiar with compassion, mercy and grace. I had a friend who became pregnant. It was quite the shock and caused quite a buzz. She was the daughter of an elder and had been "raised right." I think I kicked into mercy mode for her because so many others didn't. More lessons on mercy and compassion followed. The best lessons were those where I was the recipient of mercy or compassion or justice. I recently watched Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. There is a scene where Diane's character has a major realization. She understands that she can't be okay with Jack's character and how he handles relationships. Weeping, she says something to him along these lines: "I know what this is. I've written it a hundred times, but I never really knew. Do you know what this is? It's heartbroken." She gives him one last kiss and leaves. I think that is true for these ideas we've been talking about. We truly understand mercy when we receive it; forgiveness when we are forgiven, etc.

Through all this, God has been my guide. He hasn't always worked through the Church or other Christians, although he often has. Sometimes a Christian's best examples of justice, forgiveness, compassion and mercy come from people who don't share his/her beliefs. And just when I think I have it, when I know everything there is to know about any of these concepts, something happens and I am floored with a new awareness--a different perspective. I'm grateful for that. I don't really every want to know it all. I want to always be a person who is willing to learn and grow and who can be impacted by the world around her.


Sheila said...

Excellent post. I agree with you almost all of the time! :) Something's Gotta Give - I love that movie!

Mommy off the Record said...

Great post. This was my favorite line: "We truly understand mercy when we receive it; forgiveness when we are forgiven, etc."

I think that is so true, and it made me think: without ever making mistakes (some might call the graver ones "sins") and then learning from those mistakes, we don't then have a real opportunity to learn empathy for others, compassion, forgiveness, etc. It seems ironic that good would come from bad, but in this case it seems so. In some ways, I think it's actually a hopeful, inspiring thought.

Macometer said...


Do you mind checking out this link, its a website for missing toddler Madeleine Mccann. Perhaps you won't mind putting the videos on your blog since so many people visit it daily. Thanks a bunch, its heart wrenching stuff, poor little girl.


Julie Pippert said...

You never disappoint. But I see I was not speedy enough in my pondering for commentary!

There are still so many things to say. I'll try for brevity.

I love how you interweave your faith and maturation process into this.

And it is so key to remain open to the many examples of good around us and to know that it might be a different avenue than our usual, but is just as valuable sometimes. I love that you made that point.

I forgot that line in that movie...did like it though.

You hit the essential component in it all IMO: to see your own humanity and to learn how to extend by accepting what is offered to you.

Beautiful. :)