Was having a conversation with Suz the other night about what can be forgiven and what can't be forgiven. We discussed how someone can make something "whole" again. That it can never be. But can it still be forgiven? For example, what happens if you get into a car accident and your passenger is killed or crippled? Or You drive while you are drinking and run over a 12 year old boy. Or you stomp someone to death in a drunken brawl. Or you shot someone or you stab someone? What if you raped someone? Took advantage of girls while they are too drunk to make a choice (but the courts find that you were not "that" guilty). Or you are notorious for beating up your spouse every time you get jealous? All of these things are horrible actions, you think?
A court case in the news of a young drunk driver reminded me of my brother Pancho and when he died four years ago. He was in the hospital intensive care along with a young girl. She was in a car with her friends when another young girl hit them with her car. Her car was on cruise control, she was texting, she was drunk and went through the red light. She just pleaded guilty to charges this week and is now waiting to see if she is being sentenced as an adult or as a youth; she was 17 at the time of the accident which killed two girls. She told the parents that she knows "they think she is a monster and hate her". At the hospital I spoke to the father of one young girl; she was in a coma with severe head injuries. It was awful, the grief the pain that the family was going through. That poor young girl, all that life she was living, interrupted drastically by a selfish decision to drink and drive.
So how can anyone make amends or ask for forgiveness in these situations?
In some cases there is a chance for forgiveness.
I was at this Sundance Ceremony a few years back and the Sundance Chief was speaking to the people there. He said "some of you have done things that can never be forgiven". I think there were also points made about using Ceremony to try and cleanse themselves of their acts. He spoke of incest, sexual abuse of kids and other acts that are horrible assaults on children. The point made is that no act of contrition can erase what you did and what took place. That is the truth. I am sure that absolution is not out of grasp if you are a Christian. You know like that criminal that was on nailed up on the Cross next to where Jesus was nailed up on a Cross next to him. Anyway the Criminal was given absolution or acceptance by Jesus and thereby he got himself a spot in Heaven. So there is a moral there isn't there? But as the Elder said for some there is the unforgivable. So there can be never be atonement.
I love that scene of forgiveness in the Coen Brothers' film, "Oh Brother Where Art Thou".
"Well that's it boys I have been redeemed. The Preacher done warshed away all my sins and transgressions. Its the straight and narra' from here on out. And Heaven ever-after is my reward. The Preacher said all my sins is warshed away. Neither God nor man has nothing on me now. Come on in Boys the Water is fine".
But if you are part of the Traditional Circle, atonement is not as easy to come by. You see it is not about you washing your sins away by being dunked in water. It is the life you lead. I know some will say but what about the Sweat Lodge? I mean after all it is about being Reborn isn't it? Well you got me there, But...
It's a start. Remember about making Whole again? How can going into the Lodge make things right like that? It can't be that easy can it? No its not that easy.
It comes down to how can you ask for forgiveness or make amends in the situations that we consider horrible and in fact are horrible?
A friend of mine from Hazelton British Columbia (home of the Gitxsan) told me about their Clan systems and how they are still very strong in their Bands (called Tribes in the U.S. and called communities elsewhere) over there. The Women carry the Clans. So they are very important in keeping their Cultural ancestry. Over in the BC area the Indians there have a system in their governance, their Clans of using the Feast Hall (Give-Away sytem), you may know it as the Potlatch.
If there is something horrible that happens the Feast Hall would be the place to address the issue. Take for example if someone runs over a young girl while intoxicated-drunk. Well how can there ever be peace with that person and how can he make amends? You can never ever bring a life back or replace that life. In the Gitxsan the repercussions are even far reaching than immediate family and extended family (in the Native community our families are huge, not only by biological but by extended not by blood). So that young girl was a carrier of Clan members. She is not able to carry Clan member because her life was taken. How can you make up for that as well? So the man can try the Feast Hall or the Potlatch. The family and the Clan do not have to accept his Potlatch attempts. And that is their choice ( I would most likely never accept apology but who knows). So the family may never ever accept the acts by the person, but the person may try every year to provide the Potlatch for the community and family.
The thing is as a person that has committed wrong it is how you go forward after that. If you are the person who has taken a life, how do you now go along in your life afterwards? Are you contrite, are you atoning for your deeds, your choice to do what you did? How are you making amends? You will never or could never fix or make whole what you did, but it is how you go on that is key. You live a life of trying to atone. You help others and go on like that. Maybe you may never get forgiveness, but at least you are trying to live as a better person than the one who did the act in the first place.
If you live a life in the same manner as you did when you made the horrible act, you are even more of a monster. You give no remorse to those that you harmed. You insult them even further. What if you killed a friend in a hunting accident while night lighting, and you continue to go out night lighting; is it wrong? You mock that family if you continue on the same path of your old self and there should be no forgiveness for you.
But if you are trying to atone, and not just by going to a Sweat or a Confessional for absolution, but are living a life of purpose for others, than maybe you might one day earn some forgiveness. Even if you never get forgiveness by those you have hurt, maybe you help someone else and that is a better life to live than one of being a monster only.
So those of you that have done the unforgivable, I hope you don't give up trying to be a little bit of a better human being.
This happened this week, a Holocaust Survivor forgave a Nazi.
It was a remarkable act of forgiveness.
Last week at the trial of former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening, Holocaust survivor Eva Kor decided to approach and speak to the former SS officer who is accused as an accessory to 300-thousand murders.
I wonder how you really can make amends for some things you have done?
Oh just saw this on Facebook and thought I would show you as well.