I heard this definition of atonement from Joseph Campbell. It is a critical step to understanding the journey of our self, the hero we always bear within us. The sense of releasing the Ego in order to attain it is fascinating, and it makes this all the more important.
The traditional sense of atonement that I think of is one reflective of religious beliefs; an act of atoning for one’s sins. However, when viewed from the origin, or etymology, of the word itself, we can see that it comes from the sense of unity. That may be exactly the same thing, but it feels different to me, probably because I have limited religious knowledge.
When I think of reconciliation of a wrong, or reparation, I can see it as an action whereby a person attempts to reunite oneself with the wronged or slighted. To bring us back to the unity of friendship or whatever level the past relationship held. In doing so we see the act in the fullness of a greater lens; a more holistic picture.
If we see this as a cycle of the heroes journey, as it relates to this, it is the closing of the circle, the last step to reaching the point where the journey began and the injury was started. In bringing ourself back to this point, we can visually see that we are uniting ourself once again with that person. Our understanding is unified.
Atonement not only requires us to review our deeds and actions that may have slighted others, but also our relationship to others, perhaps even what that other person means to us.
Why is it important?
One reason is accountability. If we cherish a strong moral and ethical character, we must rectify the wrongs we have done. We need to answer for them, so we can close the loop, let those affected by it understand our new intentions, and learn to deal with the next situation in a better manner. It’s growth of character and how we can choose to evolve in to a better person, which serves everyone.
Wrongs stick to us. Our past events of transgression, whatever they may mean to us tend to stay with us unless we can clear them by righting them with whom we wronged. By asking for forgiveness from them, they may allow us to let go the sense of negative karma we might feel. Sometimes we can’t let go until the other person says it’s all right and we have made amends.
This is likely where the false belief of forgiveness comes in, where we feel we can hold that feeling of negativity with the wrongdoer if we do not forgive them, as if we are casting a spell on them. That is absolutely false. It only enslaves us to the past, and casts our mind from the present at every moment that the environment reminds you of it.
The reality is that we can absolve our self if we truly feel we have learned from our wrongs, even if they will not forgive us; we can forgive ourselves. This then means the one that does not forgive only holds on to their dark thoughts and lives clouded by it until they decide release it.
To close the circle brings us back to the start, so to speak, of where the wrong happened. By unifying our desire to right our wrong, to bring about personal growth and clarity of purpose, we seal off the deed, closing the file, so both parties can move forward, releasing the mindful links to the past to where it belongs.
One important aspect that I think of as I write this is the fact that we have no control over much of our life. The person we wronged may be taken from us, or we may be taken from them at any moment. I’m sure this happens quite often, that we haven’t made peace with our neighbour, our friend, our parent, our sibling, or loved one.
If you are holding on to a sense of anger, hurt, jealousy, or any other poisonous emotion toward another person, who is it serving? If you have some acts that you need to release, seek those you may have hurt out. Become one with them by a shared understanding to end all sense of conflict and move forward, before the opportunity escapes you forever.
At one ment is a beautiful word. Unity, to unite, to close the loop, this satisfies our brain and allows us to progress in the present moment, unencumbering our minds from the past. It’s a beautiful, freeing process.