by Michael Maciel
We have to be careful not to insist that those who have committed evil be punished for what they have done, because at the end of this life, we will stand in judgment of our own deeds, and the punishments we would mete out to others will be meted out to us, not because God is vindictive, but because we are.
If, however, we endeavor to forgive those who have wronged us here in this life, then we will be more apt to forgive ourselves of the acts we have committed against others, acts that we will be reviewing and evaluating as part of our transition into our next stage of life.
I knew a woman once who failed to strap her infant’s car seat into a seatbelt. She hit another car and her baby was killed. The officer on the scene issued her a citation, because it was against the law in that state to leave a child unrestrained while riding in a motor vehicle. My immediate concern was for the mother—the grief, along with the unbearable guilt, that she must be feeling. I also could not help but be astonished that she got a ticket for her negligence, as though she hadn’t been sufficiently “punished” already. The law, in this case, had already been fulfilled in the most punishing way possible.
The one thing we can reasonably expect in the immediate afterlife is a stripping away of the filters that blind us to the feelings of others, enabling us to mistreat them. Without those filters, the full force of our actions will make themselves known in such a way that we won’t be able to escape feeling their effects, as if we ourselves had been the victim. This is the “purging” or “Purgatory” that can be found in one form or another in the teachings of all of the world’s enduring religions. There will be a “Judgment Day,” but it will be us in the judge’s seat, not God.
The only preparation we have is to humbly and sincerely review our past deeds here and now, to develop our capacity to feel empathy and and to have remorse for the pain we have caused others. The measure of our success will be in our ability to have compassion on those whom the world, in its unrelenting thirst for revenge, has consigned to the fires of hell.