This has been quite a week.
I made the choice to leave ADF. I handed over the Fellowship to an amazing person, Kristin McFarland. I left home for Los Angeles to meet Cher and write songs with a bunch of starry-eyed kids.
It’s been surreal.
Then, at the end of the week, after rushing to put together the most meaningful Solstice piece I could for HuffPost Religion, I got hit with a damning comment and it all fell to pieces. One little comment was all it took to make me feel small, and profoundly vulnerable.
I’d just written these words:
“I hold up to the sun the challenges I face in my own life; my uncertainty, my doubt, my fear, my insecurity, my righteousness, my judgment, and my shame. All those parts of me which have remained unexamined, undesired or unwanted, I hold them up to the sun.”
Then, almost immediately after the post went life, these words appeared:
I read this comment and I nearly forgot about the sun altogether, and the Solstice, and my sense of centeredness. All of those challenges I wrote about were staring me straight in the face, and I had a choice to make.
Was I going to offer this up to the sun, to the gods of my heart, or to that magnanimous mystery that a friend of mine calls the Is-ness? Was I going to allow this be transformed?
I didn’t do that.
I turned to Facebook.
I asked my friends to flag this comment as abusive in order that it be taken down by the HuffPost comment police. They complied, and the comment was removed.
But I think I might have missed an opportunity here.
This voice, spouting this ALL CAPS ANGER in my direction, could have served as a teacher for me, if I’d have given her the chance. Not a teacher of theology, or of religion, or of the “real”, “right” way of doing things; no, a teacher in how to practice compassion toward even the most mean-spirited person.
I had a chance to practice what it feels like to stand in my center, to remember who I am, and to respond with kindness.
But I didn’t do that.
I’m not mad at myself for tattling on this commenter. Being mad wouldn’t serve much good. I just recognize that I have some more work to do. It’s easy to practice your kindness-speak on an audience of comrades. People thrust forward their Likes and RT’s, and you get to feeling pretty good about yourself.
The real test on whether your message is legit comes when you’re forced to stand before someone who doesn’t give a damn about you.
What then? Who will you be in that moment?
I keep coming back to this sense that forgiveness is important. Crucial. I hear this voice in my head that says,
“Forgive yourself. Just forgive yourself.”
Funny that it isn’t saying to forgive the other person, isn’t it?
Forgiving myself allowed me to forgive her. Once forgiveness starts, it spreads. Now I’m no longer angry at bazooms22. I don’t feel affected anymore.
I remember where my center is.
Then, unexpectedly, a feeling of gratitude starts bubbling up.
I’m kind of glad this person was an asshole. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to respond like a child, because it reminded me of the ways in which I am still very much a child. The fear, insecurity, and shame that exists in me is the same that exists in her, too. She held up a mirror and said, this is what fear looks like.
I felt the fear, then I let it move me to action, initiating a series of events which led me back around to around center.
It was a gift, really.
Sometimes we get lifted up and celebrated, and I don’t think those are the times when we are offered the greatest lessons. It’s when we’re humbled by the world that we are reminded of the things that really matter:
Our own capacity to forgive.
The meaning of fortitude of spirit.
The continued relevance of compassion.