The Dilemma That Faces Us All

Kent Nerburn
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This is the dilemma that faces us all when we decide to walk the difficult path of forgiveness. Are we complicit in wrongdoing if we do not challenge those who wrong us? Or are we contributing to the darkness in the world if we get caught up in the web of heartlessness and cruelty that gave birth to the injustice?

I don't know. And yet I must know. Somehow, I, you, each of us, must find a way to respond to the cruelty and injustice in the world in a way that doesn't empower those who harm others. At the same time, we must avoid becoming ensnared by their anger and heartlessness.

One of the great human wagers is whether we best achieve this by shining a light of pure absolution into the darkness, trusting that the light will draw others toward it, or whether we stand against the darkness with equal force, and then try to flood the world with light once the darkness is held at bay.

In either case, though, one thing is certain: Forgiveness cannot be a disengaged, pastel emotion. It is demanded in the bloodiest of human circumstances, and it must stand against the strongest winds of human rage and hate. To be a real virtue, engaged with the world around us, it must be muscular, alive, and able to withstand the outrages and inequities of inhuman and inhumane acts. It must be able to face the dark side of the human condition.

How we shape such forgiveness is one of the most crucial questions in our lives. And, it is not easy. Sometimes we get so frustrated that we don't think we can take it any more.

But we can and we must; it is our human responsibility. Even though we know that forgiveness, misused, or misunderstood, can become a tacit partner in the wrongs around us, we also know that, properly applied, it is the glue that holds the human family together. It is the way to bridge the loneliness that too often surrounds us. We must find a way to build that bridge, even if our hands are clumsy and the materials at our command are flawed.


Kent Nerburn is an author of numerous books. Excerpt above from 'Calm Surrender'.

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