Bless Those Who Curse You
This Weeks Video
…and do good to them that hate you!
This is the loving approach to life that was taught in the Sermon on the Mount, not an approach that endorsed crusades, the inquisitions, or the genocide of heretics.
The patron saint of Lucca, in Italy, is Saint Zita. The story goes that at the age of twelve, Zita became a servant to the Fatinelli, a noble family of Lucca. In spite of many years of serious abuse by her ‘noble’ employers, as well as that from her co-workers, it was said that Zita never lost her inner peace, her love of those who did her wrong, and the respect that she had for her employers. It was said that her meekness, humility, and self-restraint eventually overcame the hostility of her employers, to the extent that years later she was put in charge of all of the affairs of the house. Her approach to life demonstrated her pure faith, which made it possible for her to ‘suffer’ the years of abuse, and her unfailing devoutness softened the hearts of those she worked for and with.
Zita won favour with her enemies, her employers and colleagues, through total humility. Her dedication to working hard, with kindness and compassion, was reward in itself. The passion of her heart didn’t expect anything or anyone to be different, because her heart was already filled with the ‘love of God’. That was reward in itself.
The 16th of March marks the anniversary of an event that occurred in 1244, in the Occitan region of Southern France. A stele found in a field called Prat dels Cremats (Occitan for “Field of the Burned”) at the base of a fortress mountain called Montségur, has inscribed on it in Occitan, Als catars, als martirs del pur amor crestian. 16 de març 1244 (“The Cathars, martyrs of pure Christian love. 16 March 1244”) According to popular local myth, 200 Perfecti (the Cathar male and female priests) we corralled into a wood-filled stockade at the base of the mountain and without resistance were incinerated.
Their offence? They were Gnostic Christians who totally subscribed to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, in particular the idea of forgiveness being the ultimate demonstration of love. They lived exemplary lives, such that they developed a large following that became a concern for the Church in Rome, and an embarrassment given the performance of their own clergy. It was inevitable, that having this ‘not-resisting-evil’ approach to life would seal the fate of the Cathar. By the middle of the 14th century, they were almost eliminated.
How then is it possible to bless and do good to people who curse you and hate you, people who want to hurt or even kill you?
In both the cases of Saint Zita and the Cathar Perfecti, it was their commitment and devotion to their relationship with God, which pragmatically meant their commitment to love and peace as a way of life. In other words, they had decided that these were the things that they valued most, and understood that the lived experience of love and peace was a personal choice, not a consequence of anything that occurred external to them. Nothing outside of their state of consciousness needed to turn up in any special way for them to maintain their inner peace, and love-centred consciousness. More to the point, nothing in their external world was able to distract them from their devotion to living love and peace centred lives, even the prospect of abuse or death.
So ultimately this approach to forgiveness is a values exercise, in other words, what you hold as being most important. It’s getting to that point in life where instead of being aligned with the unsustainable values of wealth, power, love, and success, that for most of us were programmed in our formative years by our family and society, we choose sustainable values. These include kindness, being merciful, humility, meekness and long-suffering. Patience, restraint, and forgiveness. Being charitable (acting from a motive for spiritual welfare), and being a peacemaker.
Regarding unsustainable and sustainable values the Sermon explains that one shouldn’t seek (earthly) treasures that can be destroyed by ‘moth and rust’ or that someone can steal. Rather, seek the sort of treasures (the things that you value) that can’t be impacted in those ways. “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21) In verse 24 it goes on to explain that you can’t be aligned with God (agape love) and mammon (material wealth) at the same time. You are one or the other. Invariably, if we treasure mammon, its loss typically results in grief, and the feeling of victimhood. Treasuring love (God), the loss of mammon is more about inconvenience.
Unless you have made this sort of commitment where what you ‘treasure’ (value) most is love and peace, it will be impossible to bless those who curse you, and to do good to those who hate you. Being aligned with those values naturally results in forgiveness as a way of life. No discipline or willpower is needed to act lovingly towards people who are attacking, mean or offensive. It just comes naturally.
To get to that point though, does require one to choose a love/peace centred life, and then reprogram their habitual ways of reacting, which they have resorted to previously. That’s where becoming more aware and living mindfully steps in. This was described as that place where one can ‘see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart’. That’s the state of being aware, conscious of one’s choices, as opposed to doing life habitually. The promise was that if you could live with more awareness then you would ‘be healed’.
At The Centre for Western Mindfulness, we mentor people in how to live with awareness with the intent to be mindful of choosing to be kinder to themselves, to others and to the planet. This includes blessing those who curse you and doing good to those who hate you!
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