“Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you.” — Andre Gide
I need to apologize.
My last blog, entitled …conscience as the folly of self-determination…, might have led some of you to assume I’m NOT in favor of self-determination. Au contraire. What coach would be worth is salt if he/she did not place high value on self-determination?
So I need to be more nuanced. Self-determination is no folly; it’s just that issues of conscience cannot be solved by focusing solely on self-determination. No one is an island. So being transparent and honest about our need for shared interdependence and trust gives us a whole lot more room to work with.
The problem with self-determination is that it reduces people to positions. I self-determine my position and now everyone is a positive or negative reflection for or against that position. People are either with me or against me. And that mindset… well, it tends to break relationships … not support them.
Which brings me to today’s topic — conscience as necessary forgiveness.
If you will remember, I defined conscience “as the evaluation of right and wrong given a context of vulnerability and reciprocation.” So, it’s not just: “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” … it’s also “I’ll recognize your pain if you recognize mine.”
The intangibility of recognition is often more important than the tangibility of actual behavior. When something is behaviorally “complete” – it’s over. The best we can do, now, is give recognition and appreciation for the intangibility of our connection. That’s what forgiveness is: the appreciation and recognition of intangible connection.
Let me give you an example: Scott and Sarah, married for 10 years, have money fights. Scott wants to finish law school (in his second year), Sarah has a hard time putting aside her commitment to a variety of groups that she supports. Sarah donated $500 for an emergency and did not consult Scott. So… how does this get resolved?
Commitments are the public “face” we give to the world. Our commitments demonstrate our values and our future orientation. Commitments are also tangible demonstrations of what is intangibly present. We promise, we contract, we authorize. And, with each of those actions, we demonstrate tangibly “what we are about.” That’s why integrity is important; it demonstrates alignment and coherence. What is intangibly true for us is the basis for current and future action. How else can we develop or maintain trust?
So, what happens when commitments conflict? We can’t be two places at the same time right? Or can we?…
Stephen Covey talks about relationships has having both actual benefits and a productive capacities. If we are future oriented, we learn to appreciate the balance required to maintain both. Push too hard to extract a specific benefit and the future productive capacity is diminished.
Covey also talks about “taking full possession” of a resource, which then allows us to share that resource more freely. Taking full possession makes letting go of that resource (either temporarily or permanently) easier.
So what does “full-possession” mean?
Full-possession internalizes the relationship, making its intangibility more important than its tangibility. It is also a developmental shift. To achieve full possession (which, paradoxically, means non-attachment), one must feel detached enough to maintain trust without evidence. Once achieved, however, we enter the “here-and-now” from a different point of view. There is greater freedom to act — once we are in “full possession.”
So what happens to Scott and Sarah?
They talk. Scott tells Sarah he feels hurt. Sarah acknowledges that some conversation beforehand would have been best. She apologizes.
And now, Scott must offer the necessary forgiveness to reassert the intangibility of their connection.
Why is this “necessary” forgiveness?
Without Scott’s appreciation and recognition for what is intangible, Scott will be unable to restore trust. Paradoxically, trust is what we give ourselves — but only after we take full possession.
“Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you.” If you exercise more forgiveness, then you CAN make the integrity which you already possess real to you!
And, from that place, self-determination is no folly.
Thanks for listening!