My friend Darity Wesley recently sent me some words of wisdom. She said living in revolutionary times is not easy. The Chinese have a blessing that also serves as a curse: “May you live in interesting times!” Revolutions demand that we renounce those ideas and conceptions which keep us from moving forward. One of the most difficult things for us to do as members of the human species is to let go of old beliefs and perceptions. History has shown that we are often willing to live unhappy, limited lives—or even die—rather than to change our beliefs, to see things in a new way, to release the old in favor of the new.
In parts of the world where peace initiatives keep breaking down over and over again, it is the rehashing of past grievances (whether religious or ethnic) that continuously stirs the fire of revenge. Once revenge is accomplished, the opposing group wants the same thing and the strife goes on. The only possible solution is to renounce vengeance. It is only through forgiveness that we can find peace and freedom.
By releasing past injustices, past prejudices, and past hurts we can move forward. Gandhi said that if everyone practiced the eye-for-an-eye morality, soon “the whole world would be blind.” Perhaps it is natural to want to do to others what they have done to us, but it is not good enough. It is not the way of spiritual advancement. It was certainly not the way of Jesus.
It was his way to love the enemy, turn the other cheek, go the second mile. He could renounce “natural” feelings in favor of spiritual ones. Two thousand years ago he told us how to break the chain of recurrent strife and showed us the perfect example in the way he dealt with his own life. He held out the promise of a perfect world.
Almost a century ago, another spiritual leader was envisioning a “new heaven and a new earth.” Charles Fillmore wrote in the “Renunciation” chapter of The Twelve Powers of Man, “The earth is slowly regaining its equilibrium and will in due season be restored to its pristine golden age.”
But what is standing in the way of this miracle coming to pass? Could it be us?
All our positive and determined efforts to make our lives and the world better may not succeed unless we make the preliminary move of renunciation, of formally and voluntarily giving up whatever old ideas we are holding and starting with a clean slate. I think Darity is on to something, do you?
Posted by Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club PR Chair