Bruce Toews (masterofmusings) wrote,
Bruce Toews

LJ Idol Week 9: Taking Ownership of the Scars We Leave

We live in a society of victims. What did this person do to me? How did that person hurt me? What has the other group done to harm me? It's easy to blame, it comes naturally to us, and has since the Garden of Eden: Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, both blamed God. History is full of blaming, and we are still blaming as much as ever, right to this very day.

But what of the scars we leave? Are we willing to take ownership of them? Are we willing to say, "I did some damage to this person, this group; the damage is permanent, I must live with that, and I take responsibility for what I've done?"

I think of the Nazis in World War II. Granted, many never did repent and come to realize the hideousness of what they did, but what if some did? What if some came to understand the scope of the atrocities they personally were responsible for, and truly regretted what they'd done? What must life have been like for these people, repentant but powerless to reverse the horrors, the torture, the murder, which could be attributed to them? What's it like to sincerely take responsibility for your part in a holocaust?

Another story that comes to mind was on the radio some years back. A woman had been raped. She identified a man in a line as the rapist, and he spent years behind bars for this crime. One day she discovered that she had, in fact, incriminated an innocent man: the person she had pointed out had not, in fact, raped her. She could have claimed any number of justifications in her defense, and they would have been understandable. But instead she took responsibility for what she had done, talked to the man she had falsely accused, apologized and made friends with him, and then went on a speaking tour, where she talked about the dangers and the horrors of false accusation. I admired this woman so incredibly much for the courage and integrity she showed, when she would have been very justified in not doing so. She couldn't erase the scars she'd left, but she took responsibility for them.

And what of me? Am I so naïve, so arrogant as to think that I haven't left scars on people? A stupid word, a discourteous comment, a broken promise ... These things and more are things of which I know I am guilty. Did they leave scars? No doubt they did. Can I erase these scars? Yes, sometimes I can, thank God. But all too often, I have to live with the consequences of my actions. The things I say or do today can often come right back to me tomorrow. My faith tells me I have forgiveness, but it doesn't wipe out the consequences.

It's very easy to talk about the scars given to us as "our scars", and we should. But we really show what kind of stuff we're made of when we look at what we've done to others and take ownership of the scars we made. In many ways that, I believe, is the measure of a human being.
Tags: lj idol
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