by Britta Reque-Dragicevic
This first appeared in Britta’s blog, “Life After War” on June 30, 2016, and is republished with the author’s permission.
“I don’t deserve to be here.” “I don’t deserve to be happy.”
It comes from deep within, this sense of having violated the sanctity of Life as a warfighter. It’s very hard to feel that you are a good soul when you’ve killed people. Even harder, at times, when you couldn’t save people you loved from getting killed.
There’s no easy way through this pain. There are no words that fix it. It’s a hard fact of a warrior’s life. The spiritual calling of a warfighter is to be a death-bearer. To take life for the sake of protecting life. It is an ancient calling and necessary to humanity. And it’s one of the hardest roles in a lifetime to bear.
Most of you know that the physical act of killing isn’t all that difficult. It’s living with it afterward.
Many warfighters do not feel regret for having killed the enemy (a fact that civilians often cannot comprehend). While many do. But I don’t know a single warfighter who doesn’t feel regret for brothers and sisters lost, for not being able to save their own.
This combination of having taken life and having lost it sets you apart. In an excruciating place. The sense that you don’t deserve grace and that you deserve to be punished feels deeply ingrained. Almost, irrefutable. There is a sense that it is fact.
Your pain and wounds are recent. Mine are ancient warrior wounds. But the soul is timeless and so all of what you’ve ever experienced remains with you, lifetime after lifetime. I often feel as if grace and good things are for other people, not for me. It’s like I’m standing apart on a hill, watching other people receive their blessings, knowing very well inside me that I’m meant to be apart. This entire lifetime for me is about accepting grace for myself. And in truth, the life I have now IS very blessed and full of goodness. But the feeling inside is what I have to allow to be healed.
It’s not easy to do.
The soul knows the sanctity of life and when we violate that sanctity — even while it is our spiritual calling for a lifetime — we know it. Deep down in our core.
The fact of the matter is we do not deserve to be here. We do not deserve to be happy.
Deserve being the operative word. We can’t console our way out of this by trying to convince ourselves that we deserve it. Our souls know what we’ve done and we can never refute lived experience. The soul just won’t buy it.
What we have to move toward is accepting grace and to do that, we have to become grace to others. I’ll explain.
The dictionary describes grace as “unmerited Divine assistance.”
Grace is also about accepting the mystery of our humanity, the fact that we can’t see the big picture, the truth that extraordinary good sometimes comes through extraordinary bad events. Sometimes, the entire course of history is changed. For the better. It’s about allowing ourselves to be part of that big web of life, even when our role has been destructive.
We know that new life never emerges without death and destruction first. That’s not to gloss over the gravity of this pain or the truth that we’ve taken human life and have been powerless or disallowed from saving others’ lives.
We’re not sugarcoating anything here. These are hard, immutable facts that we’re up against.
But grace does exist. Our souls know it as innately as they know we deserve to be punished. We see grace every single day in the life and mystery of how love and blessings flow. The fact that you’re here reading this post right now is proof of grace.
And what was grace, again? Unmerited Divine assistance.
Grace led you here.
And it is by becoming grace to others — the instruments of unmerited Divine assistance — that we restore our souls.
You don’t have to believe in grace or feel it to begin.
When we cannot accept grace for ourselves and we know deep in our souls that we deserve to be punished, the best thing we can do is surrender our lives to the purpose of doing good now and in the future.
Become grace to others.
When we have taken life, and we’ve survived, the only way to restore our souls is by giving life back to humanity.
You can do this right now. You can’t undo what you’ve done, but you can choose what you will do now. Put your life into action to do good. Help others. Add back to life. Be unmerited divine assistance and you will see life flow back into your soul.
You are uniquely suited to do this. It doesn’t have to be big acts or reach lots of people. Start with those you see and interact with in your life today. Say something kind. Offer to listen. Help a neighbor with their yard. Refrain from criticizing. Simple things.
And remember, you give back to life because you owe life. Not because the people you impact deserve it. There’s no expectation here for them to thank you, to notice what you do, or to return the favor.
Become grace and your soul will receive grace.
This is your path of restoration. You make your life’s purpose now to be a source of grace to others. It doesn’t erase what you’ve done, but it does return you to Love and Life.