Forgiveness and the War in Ukraine
If you want to see peace in Ukraine, start by making peace with brothers, sisters, children, cousins, friends, and neighbors.
We are never, never, never, ever going to end the war in distant places as long as we ever, ever, ever, ever insist on holding the slightest resentment toward people near us.
"They should know better," we might say.
"They need to say they're sorry," we might say.
"They need to see that they are wrong," we might say.
But none of that is true.
All it takes is forgiveness and love. Bring peace and make peace. Bring love and make love.
When we hold onto resentment, we are drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.
Or at least gets good and sick.
I've been there. I've done that.
I held onto resentment against my mother for more than a decade. I hurt my father and my kids, not to mention myself, in the vain hope that I might hurt her. Fortunately, I recovered my sanity, apologized, and made peace before my Dad, or she died.
I was able to forgive myself for such an act of vanity, ego, and pride by promising myself that I would forgive anyone else for anything they did to me--intentional or not. Of course, it was not always easy to do. But I've kept at it. I've learned the power of forgiveness. And like any practice, the more you do, the better you get.
So in a way, one of the worst things that I did turned out to be one of the best things that have happened to me.
I wish I could share what I've learned about forgiveness with you.
What I can do is to remind you of what you already know.
Anger spawns anger.
Hatred breeds hatred.
Resentment produces resentment.
And love begets love.
Love can dissolve anger, hatred, and resentment. But anger can kill love, too. Or so I once nearly found out.
I remember being in my car, perhaps forty years ago, furiously mad at my wife, Bobbi. It was during what I still remember as the worst year of my life. Two babies. Starting a business. In a new city. Failing. I don't remember what I was so mad at her about, but I don't think I've ever been as angry as I was that day. Driving along, seething, I thought of using my anger to kill the love between us.
The thought scared me.
I'd say that it scared sense into me.
I remember being in the parking lot of a shopping center. I don’t remember how I got there. I remember calling Bobbi on my mobile phone to make things right between us.
And I did.
(Memory is flawed. I didn’t have a mobile phone until some years later. (h/t Zorina) My first mobile phone was a bag phone, like this one. I must have called her from a payphone.)
I resolved that I would never, ever go near that place again. (Not the shopping center. The place of anger.)
I've been angry since. But when I felt my anger building, I’d remind myself of what road I was on. I was back on the road to the place where anger kills love. I’d remind myself of my decision that day. And I’d look for a way to get off that road and back on the road to love.
I don't know anger can kill love. I never found out. I’d like to believe it can’t, but I don’t want to run the test to know for sure.
What I do know is that love can heal.
Can love heal any hurt? I hope it can. I work to test love's healing power.
If you're religious, you may believe we're all children of God or whatever you call your Divinity, and we’re all brothers and sisters.
If you're a materialist, you know that we're all descendants of the same ancestor. If we’re not brothers and sisters, we’re at least distant cousins.
We are never, never, never, ever going to end war in distant places as long as we pass up any opportunity to make peace with those who are near us.
If you want to end war, call someone tell them you love them.
If you want to end war, call someone and apologize.
If you want to end war, call someone and forgive them— and not in the ego-driven “I’m such a big person that I can forgive you” way. That’s a way to start another war. The best way to forgive someone is to ask them to forgive you.
If you’re not ready to talk then forgive or ask for forgiveness silently.
Love them without telling them you love them until you’re ready to tell them—and they’re ready to hear you.
We’re all trying to do our best.
I’ve learned some things about love. I wrote about some of them five years ago. You may already know many of them. But a reminder is always good.
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Thank you for writing this! I just published something on love too that touches on the idea of resentment by way of betrayal: https://moviewise.substack.com/p/what-is-love
It occurs to me that forgiveness is the ultimate demonstration of love. Of course you can't expect people to be perfect and perfectly lovable all the time. We are all imperfect, fallible, and we make mistakes to boot!
We have to forgive ourselves and each other for our fallibilities, otherwise we create an endless chain of pain and suffering, which can be stopped simply by letting go—forgiving, and letting go.