Ray Hommeyer, Unity Young Adult Group
Prevalent among young adults is the notion that becoming an adult is marked by success, also known as #adulting. Yet, our recent young adult conversations keep coming back to the inevitability of failure. How does admitting that we will make mistakes feel? Really. Right now, as you’re reading this, where and how does the inevitability of failure land in your body? I feel an initial soft clenching and pulling backward under my diaphragm and in my throat (anxiety, disappointment), but my shoulders feel lighter and my head is more buoyant. And as I ease into the reality of making mistakes, there is a pervasive and expanding sense of… freedom!
I’m able to name my experience as freedom because of this community at Unity; because of the promise of forgiveness inherent in covenantal community. I clearly remember the first time I deliberately said, “I forgive you,” in response to a sincere apology. Something happened. I could tell that the person who had apologized accepted my forgiveness as recognition of their fallibility, as grace. This response connected us and impacted me. To my surprise, I gained the possibility of receiving forgiveness myself. In this moment of granting grace to another, I found myself experiencing freedom from perfection. By being able to recognize someone else’s inherent worth amidst their mistake and my frustration, I began to release the ideal that I never fail or disappoint. Not a disregard for responsibility or an indifference to pain, but permission to move away from self-improvement and towards interconnectedness.
As I begin to see failure as connection to others, I keep coming back to an Alden Nowlan quote shared in a young adult gathering last year: “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, (she) becomes an adolescent; the day (she) forgives them, (she) becomes an adult; the day (she) forgives (herself), (she) becomes wise.” How basic and yet revolutionary it is, to base the trajectory of adulthood on our capacity to forgive. And if forgiveness creates an opening to freedom, then freedom is free to be a practice we cultivate and nourish.
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