Spirit Quest

An act of love needs courage
so too does the act of forgiveness
 
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

I was already 18 by the time I kissed a girl, passionately, for the first time. Most of my pals had cleared that rite of passage long before and moved on to “bigger things.” They spoke quite openly about that event and all their many conquests since. I envied them.
 
I suffered from a personal dilemma. On the one hand I had very high standards. She would have to be beautiful and intelligent, good humoured and lively. On the other hand I could not fathom why such a woman would give me the time of day.  Such women petrified me.
 
I was shy but cute, not a very masculine boy, no athlete or even outstanding in school. I suffered from low self esteem. I was no alpha male, for sure.
 
But one day, or night, it happened, in the family car,  on a side road out in the country that I dared to turn down on my way to delivering her home. Those were the good old days when the front seat was a bench rather than buckets. She stood fairly high in my attractiveness quotient. To have asked her on a date was a major accomplishment. I was sure she could hear my heart beat as I phoned her. I was surprised when she submitted. When our lips met I could scarcely believe what I had so often fantasized about was happening.
 
A more experienced friend to whom I confided told me that kisses were like olives in a jar, the first is hard to get but the rest come easily. Maybe for him.
 
Unfortunately this romance did not last long before both of us sought out new territory. The event improved my self confidence. Perhaps, but just perhaps, I was not quite the loser that I had thought myself to be.
 
As I encounter friends from long ago, male and female, and we chat about the past, I am often taken aback by the image of me that they reveal that I was fun to be with, the life of the party. It seems that girls actually liked me and thought that they just weren’t good enough for my tastes. If only I had known all this long ago my life, well at least my love life, would have been quite different.
 
Self confidence is a tricky business. A well known psychiatrist asserted that there was no such thing as a superiority complex, that its mostly just a compensation, a cover-up for  low self esteem. I have read somewhere that Adolf Hitler, who stood before thousands and thundered threats and inspired masses to unthinkable acts of violence e.g. the murder of 6 million Jews, really had a desperately low self image. History might have been different if he had been somehow liberated from his phobia and self loathing. 
 
All of which leads me to wonder what hides below the surface of our leaders. Who really is Harper or Ignatieff ? How do we liberate our true personality? How does one live with their weaknesses? How do I put up with my fears and foibles?
 
In the church that I attend there is what is known as Confession followed by the Absolution. I find the words of Absolution very powerful indeed: 
“Know that you are forgiven and be at peace, God forgives you, therefore, forgive others,” and then most important  of all: “Forgive yourself.”
That undoubtedly is hardest, to forgive oneself rather than hiding the truth even from ourselves.
 
We humans are complex beings. We are endowed with innumerable escape mechanisms. When confronted by reality, by our failures and weaknesses, we are enormously adept at finding excuses, denials and a readiness to shift the blame. That moment of absolution makes me face reality. In order to forgive myself  I must be willing to acknowledge my “sin.”
 
That word, “sin”, has had a bad press. Our religions have convinced us that we are mortally tainted, that from birth on we are fallen creatures. Think of this: “In sin did my mother conceive me.” What a trip!
 
My fallen state has been blamed on those two in the Garden, Adam and Eve and their disobedience. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. They are expelled from Eden. By the sweat of their brow shall they make their living. Birth will be full of pangs. It will take the son of God dying in a most excruciating manner to atone for my sins, to save me from a fate worse than death.
 
Numerous artists have put to pigment the word pictures of a Dante, of what awaits us beyond the Styx. One would think that we are beyond all that.
 
"The whole point of living is to become spiritually aware in thinking, feeling, suffering, and doing. It is not success so much that matters any more, as becoming more deeply human - that is kinder, truer, more to be relied on and less automatic in response."  (Damaris Parker-Rhodes)
 
In other words life is more than escape from what we are but discovering what we can be and to find the courage to go into the world with a daring and tender love.
 
My first kiss was pretty damn courageous, for me at least. Any act of love always takes courage, a daring to reach out with all that I have, to the other.
 
In this I am aided by a spirit that knows me better than I myself, that beckons me to risk my love, for God is Love. Dare I follow the beckoning of that Spirit?

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