Little Camino, Day 18:The Hardest Thing

(Keeping to my pledge to write thirty-four blogs, one every Monday, on how the Camino continues to affect my life– the same number as the days I walked the 500-mile pilgrimage)

After reading my book on the Camino, several people have come up to me and said without preamble, “Those Germans!” And then we both laugh. I harbored such a grudge for the poor Germans on that pilgrimage, reciting all the ways I thought they were violating the way it should be done. Oh such judgment. And if you have read it, you know that it was not until I am in the cathedral at Santiago during mass, that the great “Ah-ha!” hits me–I’m German, or at least that is my heritage on my Dad’s side. As I was so self-righteously judging them, I was also judging myself for not doing the Camino as I should. I just used them as my scapegoat. It was terribly relieving to see it and so amusing I laughed out loud. And yet…

And yet, although I understood how I had projected my judgment onto others and let go, I hadn’t really taken the next step: I had not forgiven them. Not in the way a heart is changed. A little grudge prevailed. That feeling of being justified lingered.

Even writing about forgiving makes me feel a little guilty. I want to be the type of person that easily forgives, but at this moment, I still hold onto a couple of significant grudges; I need more understanding than just knowing about projection. I’ve preached plenty of sermons on forgiveness–how it doesn’t hurt the other person by not forgiving them as much as it does hurting myself. I’m bound up by my unforgiveness. And I know it’s foundational in my Christian faith–“forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” But all that knowing doesn’t change the fact that I still struggle with it.

I got some help this week from a friend who emailed me to thank me for sending her the book Ho’oponopono by Ulrich E. Dupree about three years ago. I had been impressed when I first read the book, but it had fallen off my radar. Ho’oponopono is the process in the Hawaiian culture to use for reconciliation and forgiveness within a community. Pono means to “set right, to correct, to amend, to adjust, to make harmony.” So ponopono means literally to set “rightly right,” emphasizing the need to stay in community with one another. There are four steps or really, four parts to a prayer, that at first sight seem to be an unusual way of forgiving.

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

Okay. Just that first part, always stops me. And my friend said the same; “I still had resistance to sending the message of “I’m sorry” to those who I feel have harmed me,” she wrote. It seems natural for the first part to be instead, “I forgive you.” What is so stunning to me about the Hawaiian understanding of forgiveness is that it begins with acknowledging our own part in the breach. Thus the asking for forgiveness, not the giving of it, followed by “I love you,” which opens the heart, and “thank you”which moves us into gratitude instead of judgment.
My friend shared her longer version of this process as she understood it:
“I’m sorry for judging you for being the way you are. Please forgive me for the times I’ve been the same way and for still holding that energy in the field.  I see how in doing so, I’m allowing the energy to remain because we are all connected. All there is is unity and this connection, even when I’m having my own unique experience. I love you. The part of you that is connected to me and all that is in this grand web of experience. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to see differently.”

This way of reconciliation relies not on blaming or judging, but recognizing how we are part of the problem. And then, moving toward relationship in love and gratefulness. My Little Camino this week? You can guess I think–I’m taking this old wisdom into praying for my current grudges. And I will be truthful; my ego is gripping onto them. But not the Self that is who I really am–a human being not separate from any other human being.

As I write this, I see the very real potential for Ho’oponopono to transform my little grudges; I can feel my part in them already as I visualize the person and say the four sentences. But I try to imagine forgiving someone for a really big hurt–like rape or murder, and it seems impossible for ME to say I’m sorry or ask for forgiveness. I sense I have much more to learn about this process and the dedication it must take, the patience it must muster and the compassion that must compel it. I wait and as always, ask for grace.


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