Forgiveness, revenge, release
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” —MLK
These words, from Martin Luther King, Jr., have been traveling around the internet ever since the news of Bin Laden’s death came out on Sunday. It’s interesting, I think, that vengeance and redemption and forgiveness seem to be a part of the collective conversation at this moment.
I have been reflecting on what Laurie and I have often observed about human nature, which is that forgiveness is at the top of our brains. The flowering of human endeavor lies in our ability to forgive, to care for and nurture our fellow humans, our animal cousins, the very earth and water and air. It is also true that war, tribalism, retribution and violence are hard wired in the core of our brains – these are survival and crisis responses, and as such, we are relieved and in some ways satisfied when we hear that a Bin Laden is dead. And yet, every time someone rises above those impulses – as MLK did, as any number of spiritual leaders have done – it is a gift of grace. This is a good time to focus on grace, and to start to release the anger, fear and division that have driven us as a culture and a nation since 9/11.