A Unifying Principle
It was all I could think about. I had been very deeply hurt by someone I love and care about. I was angry, and having a hard time understanding how it happened, struggling to make sense of it and put it into perspective, to garner an explanation. I needed some type of closure, because this mystery of the universe was consuming me. I couldn’t get past it, which meant I had to find some way to let it go.
The more I tried to deconstruct the situation, The worse it became. Who said what didn’t make a whit of difference. I had been deeply hurt. How could that be?
What had I done to deserve this?
What had I done? As soon as I uttered it, I felt the sting of the question. This was not about me. This was about something done to me. Something deeply hurtful and unfair.
But this was about me, because I was the only one in the encounter who had not moved on. I could not let go of the pain, and there had to be a reason.
All I could do was still myself and work my way back though the life lessons I had recently encountered:
The pretense of accidents.
The enemy near.
Everybody’s got something.
We are our own obstacles.
Good or bad, who knows?
Before long, my righteous indignation had turned to self-loathing. Why is it so hard to remember and apply the lessons learned? A rhetorical question that only added to my antipathy. Being the person I knew I could be was nearly impossible when I was caught up in the emotions of the situation. Reliving the emotions was inviting the enemy near.
Okay self, I missed two opportunities at right action. Where do I go from here?
If only there was a unifying principle I could use and remember, a simple single tenet I could remember to apply in any extreme moment to help me be the person I know that I am—or at least buy me some time to remember who I want to be. Now that would be very useful.
Desperately trying to distract myself from my obvious failures, I began to ponder the idea of a unifying principle. There was only one I could think of: Love. When all else fails—love. As Karen Armstrong outlines in her book A History of God, the Golden Rule is a tenant connecting all organized religions. The Golden Rule. Generically stated, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That works, but when someone else hurts me, clearly not treating me the way they would want to be treated, what am I supposed to do with that? I know. I know. In some organized belief systems, the rest of the story is to turn the other cheek. But I needed something more.
Love. That was too cliché and seemed way too easy.
Thinking it through, from various vantage points including the Dali Llama to Leo Buscaglia, Kahlil Gibran to John O’Donohue, not until I reached Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister and author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, I vaguely remembered a Unitarian teaching on the Circle of Love. Originally, it might have been a Buddhist teaching, but as memory serves, which it did because I Googled it to be sure I had it right, it teaches:
The Circle of Love
Give out love and you get back love. But maybe not from the same people you love.
Inflict hurt and you will be hurt. But maybe not by the same people you hurt.
In other words, it was about me and not about me, all at the same time. Hardly simple, but a principle that applies to us all. The Circle of Love. There it was—it was about me and not about me, all at the same time.
The Circle of Love:
To the unknown individuals whose love and kindness have helped me in ways I am not aware of—thank you. I am grateful. I will pay your love and kindness forward whenever and however I can. Let my actions work to enlarge the circle of love.
To the unknown individuals who have suffered due to my thoughtless and painful actions— I am truly sorry. I will sow love and kindness anywhere and everywhere I can, not just when I want to or when it is easy. Let my actions work to diminish the circle of pain.
And so it is.