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Healing: The Community’s Role

Without community, true healing cannot occur. Forgiveness is an essential part of healing and it is very difficult to forgive ourselves for past transgressions. We need an unconditionally loving community with which to share those past mistakes, otherwise we are always in doubt about whether or not we are truly accepted for the injury or hurt or misdeed that we have done. Our true core knows that we are good and lovable, but our mind always challenges that conclusion, unless we have been raised unconditionally for the first seven years of our life. In those first years of journeying on the earth we are usually corrected and criticized for doing all kinds of things—even if it is just spilling milk at the table.

So, we develop a thinking pattern of self-criticism regarding our intrinsic worth, especially when we do something that we are taught is wrong and then happen to do it, maybe even intentionally. For instance, unless we experience forgiveness from our mom or dad when we intentionally lie to them about taking the candy off the table, we start to think that we are not forgivable.

In the Catholic religious tradition this unconditional acceptance is experienced in one’s participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, formerly called Confession. But this experience of psychological healing from guilt can be experienced in many other ways. Friends of mine experience it all the time, I’m told, in the AA or the NAA or the SAA meetings. They are not judged as bad, nor are they kicked out of the meeting when they share that they have lapsed in their commitment to sobriety.

Over the past weekend I experienced something similar to the Catholic confessional and the AA meeting. It started out quite simply, with one of my in-laws asking the question: “What was/is your favorite sandwich?” and “If you won the mega lottery, what would you do with the money if you used it just for yourself and why?”

All of the siblings and in-laws started to tell stories about themselves. The questions led each of us to reveal happy and some not-so-happy events in our lives. Some of us shared mistakes we had made and wanted to overturn or make right. But in this sharing there were no judgments made about one another, no snide, sarcastic comments, but true acceptance of what was shared. We each felt affirmed and in some cases forgiven for what we had done or what had happened in our lives.

We could hear in each other deep desires and longings for certain events and situations to happen in our lives. This helped us realize some changes that we could make. We had very gently and lovingly begun to heal ourselves without even knowing it.

I remember that happening as well when I was gathering over a holiday meal with my family and some friends. The deep sharing and self-disclosing became healing—truly and internally.

Community heals when it is non-partisan. Community mends past confusions and misunderstandings when the members share and experience unconditional acceptance.

I wonder if that can happen in other places than family gatherings, or church rituals? Can we begin to heal our broken world by just sitting down together and sharing?


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