The Burning House
~ or what are we going to do when our world turns to ashes?

Posted on 9 July 2018 | No responses

Burning mansion
Every nation divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

In the mansion of humanity there are three floors. On the top floor live the matriarch and the patriarch of the controlling family. On the middle floor are all the children and grand-children. On the bottom floor are the servants, who come and go to the lands where livestock, wheat, and vegetables are grown.

One day a fire breaks out on the lowest floor. Those on the top floor have not concerned themselves with the state of that floor and have allowed it to become dilapidated. The walls are dry and rotting, and the means to stop the fire have become rusted with age. The servants are, nevertheless, doing their best to quell the flames.

The people on the middle floor start to smell the smoke and wonder where all the servants have gone. When a few begin to realise the mansion is on fire, they rush to the narrow staircase leading to the top storey in order to escape the flames. One or two of those make it to that floor. The patriarch then closes and locks the door, afraid that too many people on his level would endanger his safety.

Those remaining on the middle floor take several actions.

Some of a religious bent begin to pray for the well-being of themselves and their elders, but do nothing to help those fighting the fire. Those of a spiritual bent meditate to find inner peace during this emergency, trusting that ultimately all will be well, but also do nothing to help stop the fire. Some deny that the house is on fire, angrily denouncing anyone who says otherwise. Some claim that it is not their problem, and even worse, that the servants who are risking their lives deserve to burn. All too few run downstairs to take up buckets and axes, and pitch in.

On the ground floor the struggle is hard because they have received so little support. Don’t the people above understand that we all share this house, and the welfare of the lower floors is critical to the welfare of the upper floors?

Some on the lowest floor are so angry and so frightened that they fight among themselves, then run from the house to save their own individual lives, without noticing that the flames are spreading to the fields and villages.

The remaining firefighters cry, “Surely a better way of living would have prevented this tragedy! What are we going to do when our world has turned to ashes?”

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

Big Changes: New America

Posted on 3 July 2018 | No responses

Flag dove

Okay, people! It’s time to sharpen your pencils (or charge up your laptops). Now is the time to think big and make out your wish list. We all need to be ready for the next couple of Federal elections.

Our democracy is seriously broken. Some of it was broken from the beginning. Some of it has been broken through corruption. Some of it is straining to evolve into something better than our forebears could even conceive. A simple patch job is not going to fix this mess. We are going to have to recreate the US from top to bottom (and bottom to top), if we are going to keep this country from imploding or collapsing into irrelevance.

Electoral Reform

Every adult US citizen has a right to vote. Every adult US citizen has a responsibility to vote. Each vote must be given equal weight or we are not living in any form of enlightened democracy. Everyone must be given every opportunity to vote.

Wishlist items:

* Easy national standardized means of gaining voter registration.
* Every US citizen of voting age is required to register and vote. (This is done in Australia and the world doesn’t come tumbling down.)
* Easy access to voting: for one week make available 24 hour voting booths evenly dispersed throughout cities and towns. Ensure that people have the right to petition for a booth to be placed in their community and then get one. Make postal votes easy to access as well.
* Dispose of the electoral college.
* Institute Single Transferable Vote. People can start putting this in place in their local electorates and experience how well it works.

People have a right to have their needs and concerns fairly represented within their government. Currently, we have a disconnect whereby politicians may be more answerable to monied interests rather than their electorate.

Wishlist items:

* Candidates can only accept individual donations: no business or organizational donations. This includes in-kind donations
* Donation caps 1: only so much can be donated by any one individual–cash and in-kind.
* Donation caps 2: all candidates have a cap on how much they can spend on their campaign.
* Anyone who runs for office, and passes a reasonable threshold of signed support, is given campaign resources by the government equal to every other candidate.
* All publicly endorsed candidates must have equal access to media coverage.
* All candidates who are voted into office are given a reasonably generous wage that is pegged to the national minimum wage. They can only ever make twelve times the wage of the lowest paid worker (and now we are aware of just how poor some people are). This includes when they leave office–we do not want them voting for their next job.

Structural Reform

Various governmental systems have been deeply abused. For instance governmental loop holes have allowed the position of president to be disproportionately powerful in relationship to Congress and the Supreme Court. All of these must be answerable to the people and to our country’s highest values.

Wishlist items:

* The powers of the president must be better circumscribed.
* All people involved in governance must be clearly answerable to the law of the land to the same extent as their people.
* A better method of appointing Supreme Court justices must be found, with equal opportunity laws applying in this instance as well.
* Controls must be put on the proliferation of enforcement bodies and the sorts of weapons to which they have access.
* Better oversight of government functioning and better protections for whistle-blowers.

Critical to structural reform would be the updating of the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights. This strikes terror in the hearts of people on both the left and the right. However, I don’t think at this point we have much choice.

Wishlist items:

* The overt inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Bill of Rights.

* The overt inclusion of On Human Rights and The Environment in the Bill of Rights.

NOW is the time to start a national conversation about what we want from our country. NOW is the time to start practicing these ideas on a more local level. If we see these changes happening at the state level in more and more states, you better believe that we would eventually see Federal change as well. NOW is the time we get involved, ensuring everyone can vote and that we have people up for election who are worthy of their vote. Think of this moment in time as an opportunity for a better nation and a better world. Get engaged people!

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

A Bad History of Ideas

Posted on 24 June 2018 | No responses

Mount Olympus by Abraham Janssens

So, we have people who want to convert you to their way of thinking.
This could be for reasons:
Sometimes to make the world a better place,
Sometimes to validate those people’s sense of self.

“Hey! I have great ideas!
You should agree with me, so that I can feel secure that I have great ideas!”

Let’s say a few people convert their thinking to this person’s great ideas.
Then let’s say other people with other ideas also have people converting to their ideas.

But who is right?
Does someone believing in a different idea mean we are wrong?
Does someone believing in a different idea make them wrong?
(No reason to worry about who is right. Not when insecurity is at stake!)
How hard do we want to think about this?
“Surely, the ideas we already have are obviously the best ideas!”

To feel even more secure maybe we convert these people to our ideas as well.
Maybe we start forcing people to agree to our ideas?
Perhaps we should stop people from converting to other ideas?

So certain groups of people convert and dominate other groups of people.
Lots of little groups are absorbed into bigger groups.
No one is allowed to question these ideas, because…scary!
You are even told: question these ideas and scary things will happen!
Gods will punish you!
The world will fall apart!
Someone will come and kick you out, or beat you up,
or just make sure you have a rotten life!

Soon people are converting other people
just to make sure their group is big enough to protect themselves from the other group.
It’s not even about the ideas any more.

Lies are told about the other people and their ideas to keep us scared.
Lies are told about our own ideas in order to keep them intact.
These lies are told from cradle to grave, generation after generation.
No one knows what the truth is any more.

Sometimes some of these ideas could have, at one time, complemented one another.
But we will never know.
Too much is at stake.

Maybe we should be capable of discussing lots of ideas
without freaking out!
Maybe we should be capable of changing our minds occasionally,
without being terrified that something essential about ourselves will die.
Maybe we should find the fortitude to look closely at ideas
in order to better determine their place and value…
perhaps allowing for many ideas!
Maybe we should stop being so scared of one another
and find a little inner security.
Maybe we should stop scaring one another.

Maybe the most important thing is to
JUST BE KIND!

In peace,

Katherine

Posted on 21 June 2018 | No responses

Chocolate oatmeal cookies
I have spent much of my adult life trying to get people activated.
It can be hard and discouraging at times.
People don’t want their lives ruffled.
They don’t want to self reflect and find themselves feeling guilty.
They are scared of the consequences of stepping outside of the norm.

I promise you, if you step outside of the norm toward kindness,
I will be there offering you cookies.
Forget the dark-side.
It’s not worth it.

In peace,

Katherine

We are not fighting men…

Posted on 18 June 2018 | No responses

Vincent van Gogh

We are not fighting men.
We are dismantling patriarchy,
Most especially white patriarchy.
Even women can be part of the patriarchy.
But we must remember that men are the ultimate beneficiaries of this system.
And consciously or unconsciously, many will act to defend their privilege.

We must practice self awareness.
We must consciously choose kindness, until it comes to us unconsciously.
This includes standing up to those who would dilute and abuse our goodwill.

In peace,

Katherine

Ending Bully Culture
It’s not just about kids

Posted on 14 June 2018 | No responses

Broken Window

CC BY-SA 4.0 WiseWoman, 13 May 2013 Wikimedia

“I’m just beside myself with sadness because our president is a bully, our president is a punk, and he just doesn’t get it. I don’t know where he was raised but his family didn’t do a good job raising that guy.”
~Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney 2017

A scenario

A bully knocks a child over on the playground. A number of other children observe this youthful act of violence. They most assuredly feel empathy for the child who has been harmed. They are also now afraid of being the next target. They back away. They avoid the victim and are superficially friendly toward the bully.

The victim

The victimised child finds they have to pick themselves up and seek help. The playground supervisor glowers at all the children and tells the bully to stay away from this child. The supervisor feels they have done their job and leaves. However, a number of things remain unresolved.

The child who was pushed still has cuts and bruises that need tending to and has been left to sort that out for themselves. The other children are now even more afraid of this child because they brought in a threatening power of their own. The kids are now caught between a powerful adult and a powerful bully when dealing with the bullied child. This child is not only left alone, but positively ostracised.

The child now has more than just physical wounds to contend with. They must deal with the emotional wounds of someone wishing them harm and actively pursuing that wish, the wounds of realising none of their friends were willing to stand by them, the wounds of a supervisor half doing their job thereby leaving them open to even more wounding, and the wounds of being isolated.

More victims

The children on the playground have also been victimised by this exchange. The bully’s actions could have been done as a moment of emotional venting, or deliberately to assert control by making an example of one particular child. Either way the child audience is now in terror. Having a powerful adult come in and not resolve the issue, such that they can all feel safe, generates even more fear. They have no one but themselves to rely upon to create any sense of safety. They have neither resources nor experience to choose wisely and effectively on how to do this.

Victim and perpetrator

So far I have been describing the child who used violence as “the bully”. This is unfair, but we tend to focus in on either or both the bully and the victim as “the problem” and dehumanise both of them. They are both children. They are both people: young people who are just learning about what it means to be human in the world.

The child who was pushed can sometimes face adults who feel they somehow provoked the harm they received. The adult may express the desire for the child to not say anything and to stop complicating the adult’s life. “Why can’t you just let it go? These things happen. You should just stand up to the bully or ignore the bully. You are too sensitive.” And thus this child is diminished.

The child who did the pushing is often seen in isolation to their circumstances. They are just a “bad kid”. They may come from a difficult situation or set of situations. They may feel powerless at home due to poverty, family in-fighting, or abuse. So creating power at school is important to their sense of well-being. If a parent has found it effective to bully a child at home in order to control behaviour, the child will learn that as an interpersonal skill and take it to school with them. They may have tried it once with useful results. If using bullying repeatedly gets useful results, then the behaviour is reinforced.

The tangle

Shutting up a victimised child is often easier and less frightening than coping with all the issues that create a child who uses bullying tactics. Trying to shut up a bullying child makes things worse. The unadressed emotions with which they are coping become magnified. If it seems to them that the only thing they did wrong was get caught, then they may find more stealthy and subtle means to continue victimising others. The child who called them out may become the target for a sustained campaign of punishment.

Dealing with a child who chooses physical and/or emotional violence means addressing the child, their family, and the culture at large that caused all the choices this child made seem perfectly logical in their world. If poverty was the cause, then this demonstrates how we must address poverty. If a culture of domination was the cause, then this demonstrates how we must address a culture of dominance. How many hours of violence is this child exposed to on television, movies, games and the like that all help to normalise violence when they see it enacted by friends, family, and the wider community? Violent media may not cause violent behaviour, but it certainly backs it up once someone has gone down that path. Addressing bullying properly is hard. However, it is disastrous to not grapple with it.

When bullying has happened everyone has to be healed: the child who was bullied, the child who chose to bully, and all the children who observed the interaction. Everyone has to be reconciled…anything less and children learn they can’t trust one another, since they cannot and do not help one another; they learn they cannot trust authority because authority’s solutions often make things worse; and they find that interpersonal isolation is the safest path through life. Is it any wonder that people turn to social media and computer games to feel interpersonal connection? The problem is that these spaces can be so safe as to be sterile of meaningful relationships. Otherwise, they can be equally endangering.

We tend to treat this dynamic as if it only happens in childhood. It is established in childhood. It becomes entrenched in a generation’s culture as everyone learns skills in how to cope without changing anything. Children may learn they cannot use physical violence as adults, but they may learn more inconspicuous means to manipulate and damage people for their own benefit. We all have to take responsibility for this and early. By adulthood a person may no longer have any reason or desire to change. They may have learned clever ways to go underground when they are called into account, then continue enacting disastrous behaviour. As a society we should feel ashamed that we let things get so far.

What it means to stop bullying

If we truly want to stop bullying, then we need to start by ensuring everyone takes responsibility for the elements that made bullying an option.

The bullied should not be made responsible for being brutalised. However, their broad participation in changing bullying culture should, with everyone’s help, be a possible source of healing and empowerment.

Feelings need to be listened to and validated. Being “rational” can be disempowering and dehumanising in its own right. We have feelings, they get hurt, sometimes to such a degree that people seek to kill themselves or others. They cannot by any means be left out of the equation.

Punishment is often just more bullying, in which case it is not an answer. Rehabilitation wherever achievable is critical and part of the process of reconciliation.

Forgiveness cannot be forced onto victims or bystanders, because in fact what is being asked for is acquiescence to wrong-doing. The delicate web of trust must be rebuilt. Forgiveness happens when people feel sufficient empowerment to free themselves from internal pain and to extend compassion.

Contending with the problem of bullying is core to revolutionising our society so that we can live together harmoniously as families, communities, and nations. We can no longer afford to be bystanders in the effort to free everyone from its grip.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

STOP WAR!

Posted on 5 June 2018 | No responses

Demand love now, stop ww3

According to the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock we are 2 minutes from midnight. Two minutes from global nuclear disaster. The last time we were that close to disaster was 1953.

Thousands of mental health professionals have petitioned that Donald Trump be removed from office because he has serious mental pathologies. It is completely within his power to set off nuclear war on a whim. He has been isolating the US. He has been vilifying and dehumanising whole swathes of humanity. Now he is starting a global trade war.

How far do things have to go before he feels a global military conflagration would be convenient?

Trump has had approved a $61 billion increase in the US military budget which boosts its overall budget to $700 billion this year. the Pentagon is already on course to spend $6 trillion to $7 trillion of US taxes over the next decade. This money is largely going toward weapons that are being sold to countries around the world. Australia has recently decided to get into the weapons racket and has invested 3.8 billion tax dollars to boost foreign sales of locally manufactured arms. Why would Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull take such a dark turn?

We are all told that this is being done in the name of jobs. Is it really worth taking jobs that are going to ensure the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? I suppose that means more job openings, but honestly, you or your children are the ones who could end up dead or in a world of suffering.

Look at the numbers. War-making is big money. It keeps people terrified and in line. You can get people to do all sorts of things in the name of protecting their country, including carting neighbors off to detention centers and gas chambers. Don’t believe the lies, none of us needs war to live a secure life…quite the opposite.

We have been forced to work longer hours or more jobs for less money. When we are forced to rely on government help, we are treated like criminals to whom citizen and human rights are seen as no longer applying. We are made to feel desperate…and therefore too frightened to do anything. “As long as I’m safe, I will avert my eyes. I will keep from doing anything that will make my life harder.” This is a disastrous strategy.

Given how this is all tangled up with both human and planetary well-being, right now we stand to lose everything: the mountains, the trees, the streams, the otters and platypuses that play in them, the plains, the deer, the oceans, the dolphins, the festivals in places like Rio de Janeiro, the sweet faced children in Tibet, the beautiful saris in India, the people who help you find your way when travelling through Japan, the rousing dance music of Mexico, the yummy soups of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, on and on and on… Look outside. This is a beautiful world. Look at the faces of your best friends. Remember the friends you loved but who are now gone. So many incredible people. We stand to lose everything.

Can you feel that in your heart? Is it worth losing the world out of petty stubbornness? Is it worth looking away? Do you feel the need to do something? Then act out of love! Anything less will put us in a cycle of violence that will mean the extinction of all humanity. We cannot find a hole to meditate in or to wail prayers for redemption. We must do something. We must join one another. We must rediscover empathy as a bridge to becoming a compassionate collective. We must take back our power from the wealthy few and reinvest in a more equitable world of kindness. This will mean rallies, this will mean voting, this will mean boycotts, this will mean speaking out so we can find one another and understand the issues.

The situation is urgent! Take a stand now! Demand love!

In lovingkindness,

Katherine

Time for Utopia

Posted on 30 May 2018 | No responses

Cover of Galaxy magazine April 1955

We have been watching far too many distopian fictions. Distopias are meant to be warnings. If things go on as they are, they caution, the consequences will be dire. This is what stories like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are all about. They are meant to spur people on to make change.

We as a culture have been consuming so many distopian stories, I am afraid we see these futures as inevitable and even heroic. People watch movies such as Mad Max, already feel helpless that nothing can be done to stop the collapse of our civilisation through human division and environmental damage, identify with the hero, then cast themselves as a romantic lone survivor.

I’ve had people try to recruit me for their survivalist dreams. The most recent fellow wanted me to move to King Island where we were going to preserve knowledge and be the stable providers of necessary commodities, thereby ensuring that we “the good people” would take over the future. He had no plan to help save our planet now. He had no interest in joining forces with people who were creating solutions for a better world we could all share.

I’ve heard it said that people find it easier to imagine a dead world than a world without capitalism. This is a deeply entrenched position. This is a “my way or no way” stance. When some of these people want to seem progressive, while still clinging to our society’s worst sins, they will talk about how change has to be deliberate and slow. What the message really is: “Over my dead body”. “My world, my way, while I still have breath. I don’t care about what happens to anyone after I’m planted six feet in the earth.”

People want a future they can understand. They want a future where they feel they can be in control. Largely this means, left or right, they want a world mostly like it is today with a few tweaks that are favorable to themselves. The political difference is the size of “themselves”. Are we talking a small upper caste or a broader more middle class collective? Neither are thinking deeply, broadly, or far enough.

As things are going, the future will be profoundly alien to those of us alive today. If we start imagining utopia now, we may be able to get to that place with less suffering. If we do not, we face either tremendous suffering and/or total extinction. Human beings have not been powerful because we stand apart, we have been powerful because we have worked together for better or for worse. Let’s start choosing better more often. Let’s embrace the mystery of the future and allow it to be utopian.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

PS: Stay tuned. I am planning on writing something about a potential utopian future.

Which would you rather: more art or more war?

Posted on 18 May 2018 | No responses

The 2018-2019 Australian Federal budget does not include any new cuts to the arts council funding, though that damage was done in 2015 when A$105 million dollars was removed from the already small arts granting budget and the remaining budget was earmarked primarily for artistic institutions like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Now on a “tight” budget the government magically has: A$13 million to spend on preservation of documents at the Australian War Memorial and is considering a A$500 million redevelopment plan for that memorial.

Australia’s defense spending is expected to increase by over 80 percent—from A$32.4 billion in fiscal year 2016-17 to A$58.7 billion in 2025-26—over the next decade. Australia will spend approximately A$200 billion over the next ten years under the Integrated Investment Program on new military hardware.

In 2015 Australian historian Dr Val Noone gave a speech during the ANZAC Centenary commemorations about how the documents at the Australian War Memorial were being sanitised. Historians were to digitise some documents, but those documents that didn’t paint a pretty picture of war, those that showed soliders who came back from war with parts of their face missing or described their struggles with emotional damage and more, were to be destroyed. Think about that. Think about what anyone in the future will ever be able to understand about WW1 when the documents have been carefully curated to paint only a heroic picture.

“Lest we forget” indeed.

Please think hard about how we are being led to accept a new war.

In peace,

Katherine

Forgiveness, Apologies, and Just Relations

Posted on 11 May 2018 | No responses

Redfern Sorry

Preamble

We live in a complex world. We are all learning all the time. Maturity and wisdom are spread across the human population in a lumpy fashion. The children of a loving, respectful, and broadly caring family may be more mature than a much older person who grew up amidst familial or national dysfunction. Sometimes sensitive children escape abusive families and through hard experience learn maturity well beyond their years. Then there are all the people who learn functional toxic behaviour, whereby they are rewarded for behaving in a way that is harmful to other people, and therefore have no reason to seek personal growth. I could name any number of variations on people’s personal and social development, but you get the point.

It’s hard to know where any one person is on their journey through life. Who I was as a child and who I am now are two very distinct people. I was raised by a conservative family. I now count myself as part of those who are typified by people such as Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi. Universal peace and kindness are worthwhile goals. We should not have to be exceptional or born into exceptional circumstances in order to experience love and security.

Under these circumstances we must all extend to one another a certain amount of tolerance. We need to learn how to close our eyes to simple annoying behaviour. Upon occasion we need to take it upon ourselves to help others to learn and to grow. Many times we have to trust that with experience maturity will come. Other times we may recognise that people have a right to their opinion, but we need to gather together to stop the deleterious effects those opinions can have on the well-being of our society as a whole. Finally come those times when actions are outright harmful and someone’s behaviour cannot be tolerated…but done while still recognising their humanity and the circumstances that created their maladjustment.

In all of this we need to learn the capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the lubricant that gives a wrongdoer the opportunity to grow and the person wronged a chance to be released from the emotional burden of harm. Forgiveness makes possible reconciliation and the opportunity to heal, not just the lives of single persons, but of whole communities. Nevertheless, forgiveness cannot be relied upon without being partnered with a will to justice.

Easy Forgiveness

Forgive with ease when you have not been wronged. Upon occasion we can become offended when offense should not have been taken. Pride makes it hard to admit that we are mistaken and that we are the ones who should make apology.

Forgive with ease when the other person acted out of inexperience, accident, or non-malicious ignorance. Cultural misunderstandings fit under this category. The trick is to recognise no real harm was intended and no real harm was done. Where this gets tangled is when you have people who are behaving in a passive aggressive manner and are giving themselves plausible deniability. Under these circumstances I would still expect an apology. The nature of the apology will often make clear how genuine a person’s intent is.

Hard Forgiveness

Neither apology nor forgiveness are ways to avoid controversy. Forgiveness is not acquiesence to wrongdoing, nor is it the releasing of a person from their responsibilities for doing wrong.

When someone makes an apology, there is a big difference between remorse and mollification. One seeks growth and reconciliation, the other seeks to manipulate in order to avoid responsibility for consequences and making change. Using “sorry” as a way to simply pacify another is ultimately destructive of social cohesion. Forgiveness is forced, emotions suppressed, and ultimately no reconciliation is genuinely won. Because issues are not resolved, they will continue to bubble beneath the surface until they reach a dangerous boiling point.

If a person intentionally harmed us as a form of vengeance, then it may be worth thinking about our part in the dynamic. Their punishment of us may not fit the crime. This is why we have courts and do not rely on mob justice. However, to find release we must own our actions, make our apologies, then forgive the other person while still seeking just reparation or means by which the person will not continue to harm others.

Forgiveness keeps the bullied from becoming the bully. It keeps us from the felt need for our own vengeance. Not one of us is a bad person for wanting to hurt someone who has hurt us. It is completely understandable. Just don’t do it. At its least harmful this urge is about a desire for empathy. We want the other person to understand the suffering they have caused by experiencing it themselves, then perhaps they would feel remorse and halt painful behaviour. Sadly, not everyone is capable of that sort of empathy. If that is the case, then they need help and they need to be kept from harming others. Find enough kindness to recognise this. You will feel better and behave better than they did.

Other cases of vengeance seeking are more destructive. Sometimes we want to harm a wrongdoer in order to dominate them, and thereby enforce them to behave in a manner that keeps us from harm. Sometimes we want to obliterate a wrongdoer, so that they no longer exist to do harm. No one learns in these situations. We do not create a society where we can feel safer around one another. We create a society whereby we keep walling people off and as their numbers grow, give ourselves even greater reason to be afraid.

The whole point of restorative justice is to move past a prison society where we are all ultimately locked up in some form. We understand that someone has taken a wrong turning in their life. Their circumstances may have made that turning completely valid, if unacceptable to a functioning society. We need to address those circumstances and recognise where we too have done wrong. If they understand the problematic nature of their behaviour and are willing to make change, how much safer is it to rehabilitate people and bring them back into our fold than to create a community of the damaged and desperate.

If the harm was wholly uncalled for, then we will need to recognise its non-personal nature in order to reclaim ourselves. Forgiveness keeps us from running circumstances through our heads over and over again. It makes it possible for us to feel safe, because we aren’t constantly scaring ourselves in order to be ready should someone try to harm us again. When we carry unforgiveness it is all too easy to create psychodramas around ourselves in order to relieve the anxiety. The subconscious thinking is that if I can defend myself or even get some of my own back in these situations, then I must be safe. This will never work. Part of the problem is that we haven’t even forgiven ourselves for being vulnerable.

Apologies

When the other person has genuinely wronged you:

  • Expect apology.
  • Expect an expression of understanding that you have been hurt and how they caused that hurt.
  • Expect offers of a change in behaviour and possibly recompense.
  • Expect actual change of behaviour.
  • Understand the value of this process.
  • Be prepared to do the same for others.

An apology is not genuine if it ducks responsibility or blames the victim. You are in real trouble if the person who has caused harm insists you apologise to them for making them feel badly.

These are not acceptable apologies:

  • I’m sorry that you felt hurt (nothing is being said about what the person apologising did that was harmful, it’s all on the victim).
  • I wasn’t trying to be mean (the intent is of little consequence at this point, the apologiser must own the damage).
  • Sorry, I was just joking (the victim is still being made responsible for not taking a painful joke).

These would be the correct apologies:

  • I am sorry that I hurt you (then explain how you hurt them).
  • I am sorry, I should have been more sensitive (say more sensitive about what).
  • I am sorry, the joke was inappropriate and at your expense (express your recognition that we are all human and all deserving of equal respect).

If the above is not forthcoming, consider the seriousness of the action and:

  • Decide whether it is likely to happen again.
  • Decide whether speaking to the person would create change.
  • Decide if having an intermediary would create change.
  • Determine if the problem is bigger than this one person: does it come from the values held by this person’s family, friends, or community. Do they perhaps have a mental pathology (consider this with care).
  • Decide if it is worth engaging some form of authority to recover damages, protect yourself, protect others.
  • Decide whether it is worth maintaining a relationship. It’s good when associations can be repaired. Regardless of age, familial connection, or position in society, people from all walks in life can prove toxic and it is completely legitimate to let go of connection with someone doing you harm.
  • Write what you want to say and do down, so you don’t feel the need to run it through your head over and over again.
  • Forgive yourself for being harmed.
  • Feel strong within yourself.
  • See beyond the harm to positive things you are on the way to that are more important.
  • Decide when you are ready to forgive. You need your own time to heal. This is not up to the other person.

Forgiveness can be a recognition of humanity, a willingness to grow together, a healing of connection. When no apology is forthcoming, forgiveness is the means by which we can release ourselves from an invisible but toxic bond with another. Humanity numbers over seven billion. Our living world is in danger. We must seek the maturity that comes with humility, learning better how to get along with one another. With these skills we will be able to cooperate and create a future worth living in.

In peace and kindness,

Katherine

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