An ax to grind

He had an axe to grind

And he sharpened it with gusto

Putting into his labour much hate and unforgiveness

And when the blade was sharp and gleaming

He took it out to do damage to those he seen as “enemy”

Assumptions percolated and bubbled in his hardened heart

And coming out onto the field he spied those he cursed tremendously

And threw the axe with all his strength into the group

Wounding all indiscriminately

And as they lay writhing in the pain he had inflicted

He walked away seemingly unscathed

But the axe he threw with wild abandon

Ricocheted back again

To cut wide swathes into his heart

And he too lay in agony

What matters now that all are wounded,

Bleeding and broken upon the grounds

Was the “sin” committed against him

Worth his hate and ire?

For, you see, we all are finished

When we have an ax to grind

Choices, Consequences, and a personal Confession

I am old school. I believe that there are consequences to the choices we make. I was taught to own up to my “mistakes”. If I did something wrong I was expected to apologize and to make amends. I am glad I was taught this from an early age.

Like most children I had an innate curiosity about everything and (from my mother’s viewpoint) a never ending list of questions. I am sure I tried her patience considerably and I will be forever grateful for her enduring love and the lessons she taught me.

I remember when my mother caught me pulling the wings off house flies. I remember the frustration I had felt with the flies that were bothering me. I remember wanting to exact revenge on these creatures that were tormenting me. I remember my mother’s anger with me and her deep disappointment with my cruelty.  She killed the flies to put them out of their misery, and I, in turn, was horrified that she killed them. I hadn’t wanted them dead – I simply wanted them to stop flying around and pestering me.

I was very young; I don’t really know exactly how old I was. But I was old enough to be taught a lesson: A lesson about choices and about consequences. And although I don’t remember the words my mother said I do remember a long lecture.  And I remember the gist of the lesson: all creatures great and small deserve our respect; no creature should be abused in any way; life is precious, even the life of an insect. I learned that I, as small and as young as I was, could inflict pain. And I learned it was definitely not okay to do so. The consequence of my choice to pull the wings off the flies resulted in their deaths, for which I did feel very badly. That was my consequence – to feel the weight of my choice, my decision.

We each have an innate goodness and we also have a shadow side, a darkness that dwells within each, or so I have been told. And it makes sense to me. I lived it! But my point is not to dwell on the darker aspects of human nature; conversely it is to reflect on how we overcome it. There have been many books written on the subject by authors much wiser than I. So I will not attempt to answer this great mystery of good and evil in a mere blog post.

The events of the past year with its emphasis on death, on law, and the criminal justice system has caused me to think more deeply about life, love, and forgiveness. It has also given me much to consider as far as the consequences of our choices go. I think one of the reasons I have been so angry with the man who caused my brother’s death was his decision to plead not guilty, when it seemed abundantly clear to me that he was indeed guilty. I felt he should “man up” and confess to his decision to drink and drive and take his lumps.

I cannot speak for this man. I don’t know why he made the choices he made. But I do understand the very human inclination to self preservation. I am quite certain none of us want to know what the inside of a jail cell looks like. I am also quite certain that none of us want to experience what prison life might be like – from what I’ve seen represented on television and in movies it sure does not seem pleasant. So it makes sense that his man wants to avoid an education on life behind bars. Regretfully, by making this choice he has inflicted more pain on a grieving family.

Perhaps, like the small child I once was, I have wanted revenge; to inflict pain, as I have felt pain; to play God; to decide this man’s fate.

Thankfully that is not my job. Though God knows I have judged him harshly enough in my mind.

I still don’t have any answers. I am not God – I am not all-seeing or all-knowing. I just hope that as I walk this road I find the willingness to forgive – even if I can never forget.

Forgiveness: walking the talk

Forgiveness is something I have struggled to do at many points in my life. As the trial looms closer I am struggling once more to find forgiveness. Immense pain fills my heart and my head. It is torture to say the least. I know that people who are addicted to drugs of any kind have chosen to use them to numb the pain they feel.

But what if, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they commit a heinous act that results in the death of another? Have they made a terrible and grievous mistake? Was it a “mistake”? How do we hold accountable the person who causes intolerable agony? To what extent are we permitted to play judge and jury? To play God? What sentence will ever satisfy? These are some of the questions that haunt my mind and make it difficult to sleep.

I sincerely believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, but often individuals are broken and cast aside by society. “Hurt people do hurt people”. I am endeavoring to walk my talk. I do believe in the power of forgiveness to set us free. But as a wise friend says “forgiveness is not amnesia”. We may in time forgive that which we can never forget for the scar is deep.

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When they pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the word
Forgiveness, forgiveness
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Help me now to do the impossible
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can

A thank you to the bully I once knew

Musing photo by Anastacia Hopkins

This one is for the girl who taunted, insulted, and belittled me every chance she got. Thank you. You helped me learn what it feels like to feel sad; to feel less than others; to feel like I didn’t belong. In the process you helped me learn empathy and compassion. You made me stronger. Thank you.

You vented your frustration on me. I was your emotional punching bag. You helped me learn that I didn’t ever want to be that again. I learned that I matter. I learned to stand up for myself, though I didn’t at the time. As a friend of mine puts it: “to be somebody’s doormat you have to lay down first ‘. I will not lie down. I will stand firm. My experiences with you helped me learn this. Thank you.

You helped me see that my sensitivity, while it caused me great pain at the time, turned out to be my greatest strength, for I can see the pain in another’s eyes and reach out to help them. Thank you.

I came to understand how deeply unhappy you really were, and so I learned forgiveness. Thank you.

When I was young I thought I was weak and you were strong. But to be strong means to be kind; to be merciful; to be true to one’s values. That is what I learned.  So, thank you.

To have healthy self esteem means that the opinions of others are just that – their opinions and I do not ever have to allow them to define who I am.  Thank you.

Because you judged me I learned what it feels like to be judged and I vowed to never be that kind of person; The kind of person who defines others by their colour, religion, gender, or place of birth. Thank you.

All of the children in our class were afraid of your wrath and so nobody would play with me. I learned what isolation and loneliness feels like. I learned the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden; the lonely; the stranger and the outcast. In the process I have met wonderful people who became friends. So, thank you.

So you see, while your words hurt, they did not win out. It was never really about you – it was about the lessons I needed to learn. I like the person I’ve become. So, thank you!

Counting My Blessings

I am trying to count my blessings as Christmas approaches, which is not easy this year as we lost a precious member of our family recently. Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of my brother’s death. So my heart has been heavy and I cannot help thinking of all the families going through similar pain. Even news out of the city of Aleppo in Syria adds to my own personal grief, though I do not know any of the people there I feel for their terror and anguish. It all makes me feel so hopeless and helpless.

The words of a Christmas Carol, “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” has been resonating with me, especially the words, “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men”.  But the lyrics continue with “Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men”. The latter verse is the one I am trying desperately to keep foremost in my mind, for in my heart of hearts I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.

I have heard it said, “Hate the sin, not the sinner” and I think that is really good advice – for whom among us has not transgressed in some way or other? We all cause pain for others sometimes. If we are big enough and aware enough we apologize and do our best not to repeat an offense, but we are all mere humans after all. We make mistakes.

So as I sit here counting my blessings I think of all the ways I have been blessed. I am thinking especially about the support of a loving family, friends, and wonderful coworkers. I have had compassion and love poured upon me from many incredible human beings. It has been balm for my soul to know I am not alone, that people do care.

There are so many blessings, I live in comfortable, warm surroundings – I am not homeless, as many are. I have enough to eat, clothes, transportation, while many are hungry, destitute, and without the means to travel anywhere. I am employed at a job I enjoy while many face the stress of living without gainful employment, or work at a job they hate. I live in freedom and safety – many areas of the world do not enjoy all that we take for granted in Canada. I am healthy while many are sick. So, while life is not perfect and I mourn my brother, there is still much to be thankful for, and many blessings.