Monday, July 26, 2010


In the late 1700s, poet Alexander Pope wrote the now famous line, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” But where, I wonder, does apologizing fit in?

Being human, we each make mistakes frequently. No matter how diligent or intentional, we miss the mark time and time again. How we respond to our errors, though, shows us just what we’re made of. This is where we can shine out~~or not.

When we deny or excuse, avoid or minimize, the armor of our ego does more than just remain intact. An ego in defense mode runs amok, crazed with the need to defend against the truth of its failings. When we authentically admit our imperfections, however~~whether or not such acknowledgements are expected or accepted~~the opposite occurs. A chink appears in that armor.

And it is through openings such as this that Light can enter.

When we let go our incessant efforts at damage control and image maintenance, we can touch what author Eckhart Tolle describes as “the formless inner dimension of consciousness or spirit.” When we accept that we are insufficient, even deficient in many ways, we are poised to access at least a smidgeon of all our small selves are not.

Sometimes, when I realize I’ve hurt someone or behaved badly in some way, I notice myself begin to harden against the admission of my error. Excuses and counterarguments swirl around my brain. If I sit with these reactions awhile, though, I settle down. Blaming and justifications fall away, and I come to recognize that there truly is nothing to resist after all.

I am human, a work in progress. In the dance I do with my companions on this journey, less than graceful collisions often occur. Sometimes the missteps are mine, sometimes the other person’s. Often, we stumble over each other so quickly, it’s impossible to tell one foot from the other.

My blunders, though, are always mine to admit and to remedy. When I’ve moved in ways that are unkind or unhelpful, an apology is in order. The interesting thing about such an experience is how much better it feels to let go and relax into the truth of my fallibility. It is a long, soul-cleansing sigh. An apology becomes, then, an enactment of this process and its completion.

Being human is a lesson in humility. Yet, as we release into an acceptance of our limitations, something special can occur. “When you live in surrender,” Tolle writes, “something comes through you…that is not of this world.”

If it is human to err and divine to forgive, might a well~phrased apology form a bridge, a link between that which is of this world and that which is not? I think so.

When we acknowledge our flaws~~not in the safety of the abstract, but in the muck of the here and now~~we soften, and the shield of ego drops a bit. With that shield lowered, we become more accessible, not only to our fellow humans, but to that which is so much larger. In relaxing our rigid stance, we are better able to welcome the touch of the Divine.

We also just might come to question the whole idea of mistake. If, through admitting an error, I learn something, am opened further, and make peace with a fellow traveler, was it truly a mistake at all?

I’m not sure. The idea of living in surrender, though, is rather enticing, is it not?

Namaste, you perfectly imperfect human being, you!

Loanne Marie

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reclaiming Oneself

I ended a recent essay with these words from St. Francis of Assisi: “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” These words seemed appropriate, since I was writing about my need to loosen a tendency toward willfulness. Yet, I hesitated before I included that quote.

I’ve known too many people whose sense of self was painfully fragile. When we humans are subjected to repeated abuse or to challenges that feel far beyond our ability to cope, a shaky identity often develops. Urging an overcoming of self in these situations seems exactly the wrong advice.

Sometimes, folks just might need to move in the opposite direction. Like a plant growing in rocky soil or beneath an unrelenting sun with little water, sometimes a person is taxed to the extreme. The life force remains, but the vessel itself is wobbly. In these situations, tender loving care is called for. Nurture is needed, not a further weakening.

Many religious traditions, both east and west, encourage the relinquishment of self. I can accept that this is where we are all ultimately headed. Our tiny drops of individual identity will eventually merge into the immeasurable stream of Infinity. And with that merging, we’re told, will come the supreme realization that we were never separate at all.

But, hey, I’m talkin’ about you and me on this earth, housed in these clay bodies, with our sometimes perplexing personalities. Whether our lives have been unduly harsh or not, I think most of us might do well to first claim the small drop that is ours and live that life to the fullest.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” If this is true of the body, would it not also be true of our personal identities?

We are each unique jewels, specialized facets in the unfathomable design of the cosmos. Every one of us has a singular part to play in that overall design. Discovering who we are and deeply embodying our role seems one of the most important tasks of our lives.

A quote from another Francis comes to mind. “Do not wish to be anything but what you are,” St. Francis De Sales urges, “and try to be that perfectly.”

So, how do we discover who we are, and by what means do we grow in our ability to more perfectly express it in the world? The particulars of that answer are likely as diverse as we are. Yet, if we begin with the idea that it is Spirit that animates us, then strengthening our connection to Spirit would be an essential first step.

Saints and sages live united with the Divine, and act from this awareness with apparent ease. The rest of us, though, must consciously and diligently build that relationship and renew it regularly.

As we touch this Essence more consistently, our individual selves will be brought into better balance. Those of us who need to let go, will be better able to let go. Those who need to strengthen will find greater stamina within their reach.

Whichever direction this process takes us, the world will be more fully blessed by our presence. With Spirit as our steady and true guide, we’ll shine out more vividly as the unique jewels we were intended to be.

Shine on!

Loanne Marie