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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Soulful Alchemy

  Dr. Paul. D. Houston
  Dr. Paul D. Houston
Founding Partner

Being the TV and movie fan that I am, I was struck by the final episode of the “Lost” series. I have followed the show sporadically, so there was a lot that happened that I had missed along the way. But the mystery of the island and those stranded there struck me as a six-year metaphor in the life of our own country. What was the island, and what did all of it mean? The finale didn’t begin to answer all the questions. What was with the polar bear? And what was the “smoke monster” really? (Even the actor who played Locke, who came to embody the monster, claims he doesn’t know but he thinks it had to do with the soul.) But the show did answer the questions that counted. For what the creators of the show were really trying to present was a fable, of sorts, on the whole issue of our soul’s journey. The island was the Earth school we all inhabit—full of frustrations, danger, and challenges. In the end, however, what is left is love.

And, as it turns out, the way to love is through forgiveness. It has been said that there is no forgiveness without love and no love without forgiveness. Certainly on the island of the lost (and don’t all of us really live there?) that is the case. The show was fraught with slights and sins, both petty and major. But in the end, those who had fought (and even killed) each other came to a place of love in their effort to “move on.” The fact is, you cannot move on until you come to a place of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows you to put the past in the past and to create a new future. It has also been said that forgiveness cannot change the past—it can only enlarge the future. What tremendous power from such a small idea!

I have written before about the amazing song, “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.” That sense of grace, of redemption, that comes from forgiveness allows us to see more clearly, to think more openly, and to love more completely. On the island of the lost, it took the inhabitants a long time and a lot of trials to finally find the soul connection that they had with one another. The only sadness is that they had to have moved on from this plane (to crash it, so to speak) to find that connection. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come to such an understanding while we are all still here?

So much of life is wasted by our holding onto things that separate us from others and from ourselves. The first task in forgiveness is to understand that it’s an inside job. The only path to forgiving others is by forgiving ourselves. Let’s face it: We are all bad people—from time to time. We mess up, we hurt others, we do things we shouldn’t. If we cannot let go of our own self-condemnation, then how can we find a loving connection to others?

The other task in forgiveness is to understand what the lack of forgiveness does to our own soul. Once, when I was teaching a Sunday school class, I took in a bunch of fairly heavy stones. I gave one stone to each child and asked them to hold it out at arm’s length. It was not long, of course, before the children’s arms began to sag and drop. When I asked what the problem was, they said the stones were getting really heavy. I then suggested that they should see that stone as the anger and negative feelings they might have for other people who had done something to them. I suggested they simply drop the stones, just as they could drop their own feelings. And the next time they started having these feelings, they should just say to themselves, “Stone, I will not carry you.” That is the essence of forgiveness, and that is the way we liberate our soul.

One of the things that struck me about the last few minutes of the final show of “Lost” was how wonderfully happy all the characters were. There were beatific smiles on every face. Their souls were light, and they were ready to receive the light that Christian Sheppard (Jack’s father) let into the church where they had gathered. They had dropped their stones and were ready to move on.

In one of my favorite recent movies, Invictus, Morgan Freeman, who played the role of Nelson Mandela, says, “Forgiveness lightens the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” Mandela understood the power of forgiveness because he lived it. He transformed 27 years in prison into triumph and forged a new nation built upon reconciliation. Mandela was a modern alchemist who took the base metals of fear and repression and turned them into love and understanding. That is the power of forgiveness, and that is the major lesson I got from “Lost.” The prisoners of the lost island found themselves and, in doing so, found each other.

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