Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Will Forgive Me When I Fail?

I once heard our culture described as a place where "everything is permitted, and nothing is forgiven." There is much truth in that assessment. I think this is one of the reasons why so many people are anxiously trying these days to change moral norms so as to accommodate actions that humanity's moral conscience has always rejected in the past.

Deep down, people don't believe in forgiveness. They may talk about it, but in their hearts they don't really think its possible.

I can understand why people feel that way. Sometimes I feel that way myself. If I see "myself" as consisting in an autonomous project of self-definition, a project that I carry out alone, I will run into my own limitations everywhere. I will always fall short. And if I am truly alone, what can I do when I fail, other than condemn myself and suffer the condemnation of others?

When we find ourselves in this situation, we think that perhaps "society" can rescue us.

Thus we try to bend the moral norms, so that we can define our failures as success, and demand that others do the same. This can only be brought about by a refusal to look at reality, and by doing violence to ourselves and others. This violence, in turn, must be justified and redefined. We are afraid to be alone with the horror of what we have made of ourselves.

But perhaps our culture may begin to notice that redefining the standards of what it means to be human, among other things, doesn't work. We still bump into our own limitations, everywhere. We have seen that we can't follow with total coherence the meaning that is inherent to our humanity (and we're afraid to admit it). So we try to change that meaning, and to reshape society so that it supports what we think is a more attainable idea of human dignity. In the process, however, we have to establish a whole set of new rules. And, as it turns out, we're no good at keeping these rules either. We feel even less coherent, and even more alienated than ever, and we don't know where to turn.

We who claim to be "free" are in fact a society obsessed with guilt, terrified of failure, and full of self-loathing. We have succeeded in manipulating our understanding of humanity and creating our own rules. But when we look at our personal and social lives, everything is more messed up than it was before! So, we flee into addictions in a desperate effort to distract ourselves. Or we try to use will power to suppress our inner pain, to plug up all the real human anguish and longing that keeps spilling through the cracks and into our awareness. 

To put it simply: we are not happy.

We experience ourselves as failures, sooner or later. We condemn ourselves by our own rules, and we can't imagine the possibility of forgiveness because each of us feels more alone than ever with the confusion of who we are and the mess of what we have chosen to do. More alone than ever....

But what if I am not "alone"?

What if the core of my person consists in "belonging-to-Another"? What if my real life is in fact a relationship with the Source of all meaning and goodness? And what if I begin to realize that my very be-ing in this moment is the result of the fact that I am being loved by the One who is Infinite Love?

If this is true, then I am "good" and my humanity is a gift. A precious gift. I am precious to Someone. And when I fail, I can seek forgiveness. I can hope that the One who is Good will make me good. This hope is written on my heart, and I do not need to suffocate it. There is forgiveness.