I had something happen yesterday that I wasn’t prepared for. My boss called me to let me know that someone complained about me and that I needed to go apologize. I bristled. It’s not that I wasn’t willing to apologize- I just didn’t think I needed to do so. I wasn’t in the wrong in that situation- in fact – I knew I was right. So no, I wasn’t really thrilled about apologizing as long as I felt justified and right.
But my spiritual advisor had other thoughts about the situation.
Trust me – I tried to explain my situation. My congregant had called me out publicly and to her credit, apologized for doing so. I accepted her apology and went on. What I didn’t realize is, she had since left the congregation and was now calling for me to apologize to her. I attempted to prove I was in the right and that she had been out of line.
“I was justified,” I claimed. My spiritual advisor didn’t argue. “Sometimes people are spiritually sick.” She said, “Forgive them. You dont’ have to apologize because you were wrong. Instead, apologize for not realizing that the situation had caused her pain.”
Warning – This Next Part Will Show You I Am Human and Not A Spiritual Giant. That there are times I get tired and cranky and don’t want to have to be the bigger person.
“I don’t want to apologize.” I said.
Let’s face it. I didn’t feel I did anything wrong. Why then should I apologize? But there I was. My hour was ruined because I was spiritually disturbed. I could stand there and argue with her about why I was right. But I was still angry. My anger was ruining my day, so I had to make a choice.
I could continue to suffer – or I could choose love.
My spiritual advisor didn’t shame me for my feelings. Instead she affirmed, “Just pray for the willingness to have grace and compassion.”
Then she told me a story.
A Year Of Grace
In 2015, Pope Francis issued a decree to all Catholic Churches to undergo a “Year of Mercy.” All churches were to welcome back lapsed and fallen Catholics. Those who felt they had been ostracized or marginalized by their religion, or by choices they’d made. They were to be welcomed back to the fold. https://nrvc.net/publication/3560/article/7309
My spiritual advisor told me that in 2015, she started going back to church just to see what this grace period was about. But she wouldn’t take communion. A priest asked her why she wasn’t participating and she said, “I am a divorced Catholic and I got remarried.” She felt she had fallen too far from grace and was not worthy of receiving communion. But her priest said, “You have suffered long enough. It is time for you to come home.”
In that moment, the priest made a safe space for my spiritual advisor. He made it okay for her to return to the faith of her childhood, despite any choices she’d made along the way. My spiritual advisor was inviting me – not forcing me nor telling me – to make that same space for another.
Sometimes we just have to make it okay for another to not be okay.
It reminded me of a quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel, “In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves.”
I had been making this situation about me and my need to be right. My spiritual advisor was showing me to make it about grace and love. And in this way, I could bring peace where there was strife.
Then my spiritual advisor told me another story about grace
There was a young boy who had gone to the church crying. The priest asked him why he was crying and he responded that his father had just died and was going to hell.
“Why do you think he’s going to hell?” The priest asked.
“Because he never took communion at the church.” The young boy answered.
“But you are here.” Said the priest.
“Yes, he always made sure me and my 6 brothers came to church.” He answered.
“Your father is in heaven!” The priest declared comforting the boy. “Despite what he did for himself, he made sure you knew the place to go when you were in pain. That is enough to get him into heaven.”
My spiritual advisor wept as she told me the story. She was so moved.
I pondered the whole situation. As religious representatives, our own short-comings and foibles get in the way of serving others. The trick is to do the spiritual work so we can move past what we need for our egos and selves. To then get to a place to be of real service to others.
When she stopped crying, I asked her what the second story had to do with my situation.
“Nothing at all.” She told me. “I just love that story. And sometimes when we don’t know what to do, we just need to tell a good story.”
Today, let’s remember:
- To treat one another with love and grace.
- In a place of darkness, to be light for each other.
- And where there is strife, seek to bring peace.
To take the lesson from Pope Francis to make a space of grace for someone else. I seek to emulate the Pope so I can have peace. And plus, he and I have the same yarmulke!
When we act with kindness, we can never fail. And if all else fails, just tell a really good story.
Until we meet again – may you be blessed along your spiritual journey.
Other blog posts about being right and bringing Grace: