Weekly Message from T. J.

We’re Cool…Right?

When this month began, some folks at the church shared their experiences with balance with me, the spiritual theme for March. And some folks shared with me what they thought was the best or closest Hawaiian word or principle that stands as a corollary to balance. Kaulike was one of the words, which is more akin to the kind of equity that comes from balancing an equation or balancing on a board in the ocean. And yes, this is also applied to seeking or achieving a sense of balance in one’s life. The other concept shared with me was pono.

When I arrived here, much of my learning about language was contextual. Pono was among the Hawaiian words used in committee meetings and in discussions about personal relationships more than other Hawaiian words. And from committee meetings I took it to mean, “All is well.” And from personal relationships I sensed it more or less meant, “We’re cool.” But being here a little longer, I think I was missing something. There was more to this idea than describing the end result of something. I was missing the means to get there. “All is well…because we took action to make it so,” or “We’re cool…now.” These might be more accurate—and more helpful.

Some years ago and on the advice of a close spiritual adviser, I devoted time to setting right some of the ways I’d wronged others in the past while I was preparing for the ministry. And I remember the very last conversation I had in this process. It was with my best childhood friend. We were still very close, but I spoke with him about the past and named what it was I’d done, seeking to set it right. The taste of adrenaline as the words were spoken was like iron under my tongue.

And then it happened. He said, “Well, if you did that, I don’t remember it, man. And I wouldn’t have cared anyway.” I was almost breathless. And there followed a conversation like we’d never had in adulthood. Maybe because I’m not sure I had truly grown up until that day. I spend time with him and his family much more than I ever had before now. I was not consciously avoiding my friend. But something shifted in naming how I thought I’d hurt him and then the course of our friendship changed forever.

It is comfortable not to bring up wounds and pains we may have caused. It’s convenient to think of them as part of our past. They’re not. They really, really are not. The force of feeling behind past wrongs is less like a sting and more like a hand on our shoulder we get used to feeling and from which we get used to taking unquestioned direction. And this truth is deep in the Hawaiian practice of ho’oponopono, which is one way in the traditions of these islands of setting right the wrongs we’ve done. No journey worth taking is easy. And the course to humble righteousness is one for the stout of heart. But at the journey’s end, easy rests the head who knows…we’re cool…now.

And may it always be so.

Rev. T. J.

2 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. Robin DiAngelo talks about the idea of “repair” in one’s relationships, and of course, coming from her it is in the context of repairing microaggresdions, something that hardly ever happens and needs to start happening a lot. This kind of effort in attaining “racial pono” would be a powerful thing in our hurting society; it could move mountains.

  2. When I was a kid I disliked the Hawaii state motto: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono,” which is translated as, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” When I heard the word “righteousness” it brought back the pentecostal church I grew up with, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. Now I understand “pono” much better, and I love that we’ve made that our motto. It says a lot about the spirit of this land and its people that we care about doing the right thing.

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