Post Traumatic Tenderness Syndrome
Grace and Peace to you.
Since the Boston Marathon bombing, people around here have been more gentle, respectful and attentive than usual. Even Boston traffic is oddly kindhearted. We see this after large traumas like 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, Newtown: following a serious tragedy we’re not only a bit shaken, and not just determined to keep calm and carry on. We’ve also been opened up. We’re more human, more true to ourselves. We’ve entered into the world’s pain. We’ve been made aware that we’re fragile beings, that everyone we meet is likely to have suffered— and also that our choices make a difference, and that we can make this world better in small acts of kindness. For a moment, sometimes wrapped in the mantle of heroism — “We won’t let them win, we’ll be strong”— we are moved to reveal who we most deeply are: good, kind, hopeful people.
Of course it will wear off. We’ll become tough and self-centered again soon enough. Our resolve to “never forget” will degrade into mere bitterness or politics. But those of us who live in the radiant shadow of the cross, who follow the Lamb who Was Slaughtered, cannot forget — not in resentment, but in repentance. This is what it means to be “washed in the blood of the lamb.” Tending to the victims of violence, we have been changed. Our eyes have been opened to people’s pain. A great power within us, the divine urge to heal, has taken over us. We have seen God in the suffering, we have faced our own instinct to hurt others, and we have witnessed the consequences of our judgment and selfishness; and we have also experienced the power of compassion, and we have seen God’s amazing forgiveness and healing even before the smoke cleared. We know that the Spirit of this life is love, our true being is goodness, and every person in this world is God’s tender Beloved, worthy of our most heroic care. From now on, if there is blood on our hands it will be because we have rushed in to heal, not to exert our will.
Every once in a while we are given the chance to see: this is who we really are after all, who we are created to be. This is the purpose of our life. We are called to be compassionate, trusting the power of love over fear, with a heightened awareness of others and sensitivity to their suffering and their nobility. So we pray not to “carry on as usual,” but to be changed, to let our old lives of self-serving anxiety die, and to be raised to lives of pure love and hope. We become, each in our own way, part of the healing of the world. It is happening, even now.
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April 18, 2013