I like it when what comes next doesn’t depend upon me.
Maybe that’s why I’d rather be a passenger instead of the driver. When I’m not in the driver’s seat, I’m free to look at scenery. Or rest. Or read. Or daydream and think.
I rest easier knowing I’ve done right by others. But sometimes, when I’m merrily riding along some past indiscretion will catch up with me. And whether or not I’ve done my best is not always relevant.
There are many times my best had me coming up short while trying to do the right thing. Like last week for instance. I did my best to offer comfort. Yet I fear I did the opposite. And I was absolutely undone for a few days, by the mere possibility that I might have caused another unintended harm.
Then there are those other times when I have intentionally done something wrong. Sometimes it’s unvarnished no-two-ways-about-it ugliness. But other times it’s more subtle than that — like when I have wronged others by talking myself out of doing the right thing. Two times that I can count — countless others of which I remain blissfully unaware — which out of the clear blue, came back to keep me company a few days ago.
I wish I could explain why these memories are talking to me now, after so many years of playing dumb. But all I can say is that they have sent me soul-searching for answers. And so far, all I’ve come up with is this: Rationalizing away what’s right and turning it into a wrong is easy to do in situations where there is no legal obligation to do anything different — or, as in my case, where there is no personal accountability for a different outcome by the wronged party’s expectations or petitions.
But perhaps there’s still time to make restitution for these two wrongs. Not because it will make things right, because I’m not sure it’s ever possible to set wrongs right — a right can never erase a wrong, though it may lessen its sting.
And strange as it is, I’m not sure I would wish to erase anything. Because in some mystical way, those weighty wrongs have shaped me into a person who strives hard to do right by others — even when it comes at personal cost — and these wrongs work to keep me grounded, from thinking myself better than I really am.
So this time, it looks like I’m in that uncomfortable driver’s seat with two ghosts taking up my favorite space in the front passenger seat. And whether I make a right turn or end up somewhere in left field depends entirely upon me and my own internal compass.
Long, long ago, when I was young and impressionable (instead of being old and impressionable) I was associated with a congregation whose pastor had, shall we say, his own way of expressing things.
He was a crackerjack theologian and a great preacher, and he believed firmly that most of the great truths of the faith had been watered down by (1) weasel-words and (2) a church that didn’t really expect people to believe what it teaches.
There were a couple of things from his teaching that I found extraordinarily freeing at the time, and I appropriated them so deeply I hardly think of them any more.
He used to say on a regular basis, “Freedom and responsibility imply decision making. However, once the decision’s made, you have to let it go. There are two reasons. If you were right and you don’t let it go, you’ll never stop congratulating yourself. If you were wrong, you’ll never stop beating yourself up.”
Beyond that, there was a strong emphasis in the life of the congregation on absolution. If someone screwed up and said so, it was very common to hear someone else say, “You’re absolved.” It sure sounds different than “No problem…”, doesn’t it? But the mantra was, “The past is forgiven, and the future is open.”
I suppose the point is that we don’t have to right every wrong in order to move forward. I probably sound like I’m preaching but I don’t mean to – it’s only that your words reminded me of those important lessons. It’s good to bring such things out into the light now and then and remember them.
Oh – another good one of his was “Don’t try to earn forgiveness for something that’s already been forgiven. It’s a waste of your time and God’s.” I love that one! 🙂
Your words offer touchstones to aid my discernment process — and for this, I am grateful.
Writing about something keeps me accountable — for something is not as easily dismissed or rationalized away when weighed by written words.
I appreciate yours.