Meditation: The Amish Show us a Better Way
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (NIV, John 13:34-35)
This week the morning news programs discussed forgiveness. Experts gently questioned if it is psychologically healthy for the Amish to forgive the shooter so soon. The unanswered question is still afloat on the airwaves. Few people can embrace the idea of forgiveness because it seems to be the opposite of human nature.
As a nation we choose anger. It is what almost always motivates and inspires us to action. “Righteous indignation “ is what fuels conflicts within our families, communities and our world. We are justified, we reason, to be angry and to respond out of that anger with aggression. This week’s story is showing the world the face of God. It is a model which demonstrates the beauty of forgiveness.
The Amish are showing us a better way when faced with tragedy. They responded with sorrow for all involved, even the family of the shooter. He was their neighbor! Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is still the most simple explanation of how to live in community. People around the county are wanting to help with medical and funeral expenses. According to the media, the Amish agreed to this only if the money can be shared with the shooter’s widow and children.
The morning news experts on forgiveness explained that the Amish have been practicing forgiveness for generations implying that it is almost innate by now. I am sure that it is as difficult for them as it is for each of us. Perhaps an embracing community makes it a little easier but each of them experiences the gamut of human emotions.
Charles Carl Roberts will for ever be identified as “the shooter“. If only he had learned to forgive perhaps this tragedy would never have happened. His suicide letter cited his inability to forgive himself for what he describes as “molestation of minors” when he was 12 (unconfirmed). He also speaks of the loss of their still born child and his anger at God. It appears that the anger he had toward himself became the core of his personality. It was the thing which defined him. He could not forgive himself.
There are many mysteries about the mind and behavior but clearly our identities and the things we focus our attention on contribute to our perceptions and behaviors. He did not love himself, did not forgive himself and therefore could not love his neighbors. His jealousy turned to hatred which resulted in murder.
The power of forgiveness is poorly understood in our society. Our Politicians know how to use anger and fear to gain power. Our national leaders are experts in violence and call us to war. As a nation we train people to kill and destroy and fight back. What we do not know is forgiveness. We do not seem to value it, we do not study it, practice it, or teach it. Our Department of War was renamed the Department of Defense but still the focus is on destruction rather than understanding, compassion and diplomacy.
Imagine if as a nation on 9/11/01 we had responded as the Amish did this week. What if we had mourned the loss of all on that day and reached out to understand the hatred and anger which fueled it. Perhaps there would not be so many unanswered questions today. What if we had been able to realize that none of us are good, “no not one “, rather than set ourselves up as good and identify the “axis of evil”. What if we had refused to give in to our fears, seek revenge, and change our society and daily lives to accommodate hatred.
Forgiveness involves humility, understanding, gratitude and love. In Humility we realize that we are all vulnerable and capable of sin. In Understanding we are able to have empathy for the other and imagine the pain and suffering of their experiences. In gratitude we can overcome jealousy and loss. In love we are embraced by the power of God and know that no matter what happens we are a community. There are some things worse than death because love endures beyond the grave.
Prayer: God of love, we seek to bear the burdens of our neighbors; the Amish of Lancaster County and the family of Charles Roberts. We mourn the loss of the children and the destructive nature of anger, jealousy, and hatred. In this case we thank you for the witness of love, compassion and faith and the example of a better way . Let us go and do likewise. Amen
Action: Take a personal inventory of areas in your own life where unforgiveness resides. Are you holding a grudge against yourself or someone else which separates you from community? Are you angry, jealous , unthankful or insensitive? Learn more about the role of forgiveness in mental health at. http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3622 Consider helping to impact our nation by balancing the department of defense with a department of Peace. Learn about the Department of Peace initiative at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Peace