I believe in innocence. Not just for some, but for all. Not innocent in the sense that we are not responsible for our deeds or misdeeds, rather innocent because each of us is operating as our very best selves at any given moment, regardless of the appearances. Only a few years ago I could not have said this, because I did not believe it to be the case. My perspective changed the night I spoke at a group home for troubled, teenaged boys.
I had a clear idea of what I intended to say because these young men needed to be motivated to change. Yet at the last-minute I heard a quiet voice speaking from within me. I rejected the message twice in a period of ten minutes, but capitulated when the voice asked, “Are you here for them, or for you?”
A few minutes later, surrounded by fifteen troubled youth aged fourteen to seventeen, I said exactly what I had heard from that quiet voice. “You’ve been told you are bad and have done wrong.” I paused and scanned their faces. “You’ve been misled. You’re innocent, and I love you… you’re innocent, and I love you… you’re innocent, and I love you.”
Stillness descended upon the room.
They began to share their stories. At the end of each, I would study the young man who had spoken and announce, “You are innocent, and I love you.”
An hour later, the room was filled with crying young men, and me, a crying middle-aged man. The counselors were dumbfounded by what they had seen. It was unprecedented. I could offer no credible explanation.
Something happened that night that changed lives. Of this I am certain.
As I travel and speak in a wide variety of settings this message of innocence is one I carry to my audiences.
No one awakens in the morning and aspires to be less than what they think is their highest expression. On any given day you or I may be depressed, delusional or disturbed. We may not see the world or others accurately. But our actions are never because we aim to be anything less than what we believe to be our greatest demonstration. No exceptions. We are all innocent, though this does not keep us from unfortunate action or inaction.
On Mother’s Day 2006, I spoke in a Unitarian Church in Bellingham, Washington. In the middle of the lesson, I was moved to thank the mothers who were present as proxy for my mother who had died before our relationship could be healed.
After the service, an older woman approached me. She spoke softly, “I’m empathic and clairvoyant. I heard from your mother today during the service.”
“Really,” I replied with some skepticism and curiosity. “What did she say?”
Her eyes glimmered as she smiled. “She says, ‘You’re innocent, and she loves you.'”
I wept. An old wound was healed.
That’s what happens when we see ourselves and others through the eyes of innocence.
With thoughtful, in-depth examination of deed or misdeed, and the moment before it, there is nothing but innocence.
In that instant, we may be delusional. We may be in denial. We may be out of our minds. We may be filled with hurt or anger. But in that state, is there really anything else we could do?
Seeing True in Action
Pick any event in your life where you have regret for your actions. Honestly examine the following questions with regard to those actions.
- In the moment before you acted, did you have malice and deliberation in committing the act?
- In that moment before you acted, did you or had you clearly thought through the consequences for your action?
- In that moment before you acted, did you say to yourself, “I am going to deliberately take this action for which they and I will suffer?”
- When examined at depth, you will find innocence.