Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Friday, March 10, 2006

To Be Present to God in the Face of Evil

The other day I met a really wonderful young Bangladeshi woman named Naz at a Sufi bookstore. During a wonderful talk about faith she asked me how one can forgive another who does not atone, a dominant theme in my beliefs. The answer to that I gave but am still struggling with, is to let go my sense of ownership of anything which stands between myself and another. However, this is a complex ideal, in these days of such evil where people's lives mean nothing to so many people, and so many leaders of nations today. But, that is the core.
William Penn said it is wrong to honor evil people. His use of the word honor is complex, and means a number of things, in part it meant to obey evil people. But, I am sure, he also believed we should love God in evil people.
What it means to love God in an evil person is also an unfolding struggle. Recently, I found myself in partnership with an evil person, a person whose greed was such that he would destroy any friendship to get what he wanted, and was not secure in himself to ask for those things. I was in a difficult position as the objects I was building, I could give him, but the funding entrusted to me by others, was not mine to give, so I had to find a way to put aside my deep belief in the project while protecting the money of others. This path of discernment was not easy, but the hard part was not letting go of objects dear to my heart, the hard part was giving up on the attempt to find a path to God in the other.
This is not to say I have not forgiven this evil person, I forgave him as he destroyed the project I so loved.


At 3:41 PM, Blogger Larry said...

She asked you "how one can forgive another who does not atone". OMG Lor, forgiveness has nothing to do with any action (or lack of action) of the offending person. Forgiveness is about dropping your own hostility and replacing it with love, re the simple admonition of Our Lord that we should love our enemies. Impossible to love anyone you haven't forgiven!!!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger earthfreak said...


I have been struggling with something similar for a while now. There is a post on my blog about it from a few weeks ago.

I was (am?) in love with someone who has revealed to me what people mean when they speak of evil.

I hesitate to call her "evil" - Maybe simply because I love(d) her so deeply, maybe because of my quaker belief in "that of God" in everyone.

Part of my process has been to recognize that people act in an evil way, while still believing (naively, faithfully, spiritually?) that there is light in them.

I feel I don't understand human beings well enough to know, are "those" people evil? hurting? wounded? damaged? broken? simply operating on a different value system?

What's the difference between forgiving someone and accepting their actions? What does it mean to "forgive" someone? - Does it mean that you allow them to continue to abuse you? that you simply walk away and harbor no bitterness? that you actually love them??

I believe psychology that offering love (active, engaged) to someone who is abusing you is pathological, codependent. It can be not so much a valuing of another person as a devaluing of yourself. I have struggled with this tendency in my personality, "it's okay to treat me like crap, really, dont' worry about it" (and they don't) I don't think it fosters God in any of us.

And I think of Tom Fox, did he love those who killed him? Every moment of his torture? Did he wish at some moment that he had been more agressive? That he had walked away? Perhaps I only don't understand what it is to be filled with the spirit, to love those who perform evil even as they fail to love themselves, to love life, to love God. It's a beautiful image, but I have not begun to make peace with it.



At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lor, I was in an organic food store in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia at Christmas, and I saw this chalked on the wall as thought for the day.

"How well did I live?
How well did I love?
How well did I learn to let go?"



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