One of the most important principles upon which the American judicial system is based is the presumption of innocence. Regardless of how heavily evidence may appear to be weighted against someone, the law requires that we consider him innocent of all wrongdoing until testimony in court proves otherwise. And holding this position can be very difficult to do when an individual has already been charged, arrested and bound over for trial. We cannot help but speculate and draw conclusions regarding what looks like culpability when law enforcement has already moved to take action.
This very conundrum of the law is also a strapping example of how we often react to
each other when we are faced with a disagreement and experience the accompanying backlash of emotion.
When an individual addresses us in an unfeeling or harsh manner or rampages over what we consider to be an innocent remark, it is a very short jaunt to our accusation that HE is guilty of creating the chaos. We pronounce him GUILTY of wrongdoing. Guilty as charged. BY us. Guilty on the face of it.
But, perhaps, this is the exact moment when we need to consider the principle of presumption of innocence.
Let me explain.
Tracy McMillan, American author, television writer and relationship expert, makes the profound observation: People act on the outside the way they feel on the inside.
Whoa! That is a very significant reveal into the psyche of others. And an important confirmation of the pain they are feeling. Someone who acts miserably is feeling miserable inside. Someone who speaks in an angry manner is angry in his heart. Someone who accuses others of wrongdoing is really accusing himself.
Here is where the principle of presumption of innocence enters the picture. Each and every one of us carries the beautiful heart we came into the world with… the lovely innocence and joy and peace of the newly born. When we incarnate, each and every one of us enters into an agreement to experience life and to learn from the lessons. But "experiencing" can be very painful, confusing and difficult and the "learning" can take a very long time. When we interact with someone who is still "learning" from his "experience", we are actually witnessing that innocent heart struggling through the self-selected challenges of earth school.
And, rather than reacting to our original perception of wrongdoing, it is a loving and generous thing for us to presume the innocence of that primal heart which is still trying to find its way through the difficulties it is encountering. That heart is still suffering… this much is clear. As Tracy McMillan tells us, we are being shown by the outside action of an individual the nature of the suffering he is enduring within.
And, it is in this moment, that we are called by Compassion to presume the innocence of an individual and the absence of his conscious, harmful intent and, instead, to extend love and understanding to him for the pain that is clearly still in emotional residence and complicating the issues at hand.
Appearances can be very deceiving and what we see as attacks on our person are only the countless interwoven stories of earth dwellers finding their way through the pain of unhealed hurt and the havoc it causes when brought to bear on a triggering situation. Supporting and understanding others during this time of emotional affliction is an act of unconditional love that helps them gain the hard won clarity of self-confrontation. When we have no one to react to, we are left to examine ourselves.
"Although we cannot help but speculate and draw conclusions regarding what looks like culpability," it is an extraordinary act of trust and wisdom to offer to someone the LOVE that helps him access the inner chambers of his heart.
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