The Implications of Forgiveness

(Please note: the original version appears to have been lost.  The title was still here but the rest of the blog post was blank.  I’m not sure how or why it happened.  My apologies to anyone who visited this site or this blog post.)

I’ve been thinking about the word “forgiveness” and the act thereof.  We hear it, see it and feel someone’s desire to implore forgiveness over others quite frequently it seems.  Friends, family, coworkers, our church or place of worship, teachers, and the media are all filled with conversations about forgiveness.

Personally, I think some of us try to simplify the act of forgiveness.  There are so many layers of forgiveness, so many various acts and consequences.  It seems we get the whole forgiveness premise mixed-up.   It can be quite complicated.

I used to work with someone whose mother died when she was five years old.  Her name is Micah.  Micah said the one thing that bothered her over the years is how people would tell her they ‘were sorry’ after she told them her mother died when she was five.  She said she got tired of hearing it and would often avoid telling others.  Micah said she couldn’t understand why people were sorry.

It does seem strange how we can so easily tell someone that we’re sorry for something that was no fought of our own.  We say we are sorry to show or convey our compassion for someone.  For Micah, I think since she was so young when her mother died, hearing the same response repeatedly over the years probably seemed more like an automatic response rather than a sincere condolence.  For her, someone saying I am sorry was the same as someone apologizing for a wrongful act.

When Jaren was around five years old, we were having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse near Austin, Texas.  We had been traveling all day, from Dallas, and were on our way back home when we stopped there for dinner.  Towards the end of our meal, Jaren began to vomit.  Then he began to projectile vomit.  With a packed house of customers, I quickly gathered Jaren and scurried to the bathroom.  One of the staff members came in the bathroom to ask me if everything was okay.  I told her my son was sick and apologized for the disruption.  She could see that Jaren’s clothes were wet.  She showed great compassion to me and my son.  She said they would clean up our table.

Jaren was overcome with emotion.  Although I had remained calm with deep concern for my son and never scolded him, he began saying, “I’m sorry, Momma.  I’m sorry, Momma.”  He was almost in tears.  I repeatedly told him that it was not his fault.  I told him he could not help it that he was sick.

I was concerned about Jaren not having spare clothes to wear home.  A few minutes later, the staff member returns with an Outback Steakhouse T-shirt for Jaren and an Outback bag for Jaren’s wet clothes.  She apologizes to me because she says they only have a large.  I graciously thank her and Outback for their kindness.  I put the t-shirt on Jaren, which covers him completely.  Then we gingerly walk to our table looking around wearily.  I am prepared for an evil eye or a remark from someone.  I pay the check and gather our belongings.  As we walked out, trying to make as little eye contact as possible, I sense compassion from patrons.

To this day, I still wonder why Jaren felt he needed to apologize.   I think he felt compassion for the others eating and he felt bad about what happened.  At that moment, I felt like it was a pivotal moment in his childhood.  One that could have an impact on his emotional well-being.  I needed to convey to  him so that he understood that he had no control over what happened and that it was in no way his fought.

 

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In Christianity, we have several stories that are used to provide an example of forgiveness.  One parable has a traumatic story.  The other appears to be an average familial story.  Both stories involve jealousy, greed, and ego.

Let’s take a look at the Prodigal Son story.

We have one son who lavishly wastes his father’s inheritance.  When he has nothing left, he returns home.  Ashamed of himself and his actions, he asks his father if he can return to the family as a servant.  To his surprise, his father welcomes him back home, not as a servant but as his son.  He even celebrates his son’s return.  The older son is upset with his father for welcoming back his younger brother and celebrating his return.  The father explains to his older son that he will in fact inherit everything almost as if he needs to insure his older son that the return of the younger brother will not financially impact his inheritance.

In this parable, we have three parts to forgiveness.

First, we must realize that neither the father nor the older brother searched for the younger brother who left home with his inheritance.  Forgiveness is not seeking out and searching for someone so you can forgive them, especially someone who does not want nor seek someone’s forgiveness.

Second, when the younger son returns, he is not cocky or proud.  He does not shout or complain to the family that they should forget about what happened, get over it, or move on.  No, he is actually the exact opposite.  He has been humbled by his experience.  He comes home submissively.  He knows his choices have consequences.  And he has prepared himself for those consequences.

Third, we have a father willing to forgive because he sees his son’s heart has been humbled.  His father believes his son is truly sorry and has learned from his experience.  And… he is his son.  It is easy for a parent to forgive their child.  But the older brother on the other hand doesn’t really care that his younger brother is truly sorry or humbled.  His jealousy prevents him from forgiving his younger brother initially.

In the other story, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, jealousy again appears to be a factor between the brothers.  The brothers decide to take drastic matters.  First, they planned to kill Joseph.  Then, they put him in a well but had planned to rescue him later.  Then they decided to sell him.

Joseph goes from being a slave to second in command and a ruler over the land of Egypt.

Twenty some years later, Joseph’s ten older brothers come to buy food in his land.  They don’t recognize Joseph, who is now dressed as a prince and seated on a throne.  Joseph recognizes them.  However, Joseph is not ready to make amends just yet and decides to not disclose who he is to his brothers.

The story then tells us that Joseph wished to be sharp and stern with them to test them.  He wanted to see if they were still selfish and cruel.  The story unfolds much slower than the Prodigal Son story.  Joseph is not easy to forgive.  And who can blame him.  His story is much more traumatic than that of the prodigal son.    Still, Joseph has a desire to forgive his brothers.  So he continues to test them until he realizes that his brothers are truly sorry and no longer cruel and selfish.

Again, as in the Prodigal Son story, Joseph never search for his family who wronged him.  Surely he could have.  He was pretty powerful and had lots of resources.  He could have gone home and told his brothers that he forgave them without them offering an apology to him.  He could have gloated about his position and his wealth.  He could have used his power and demanded they show remorse.  Or he could have punished them.  But he didn’t.  Joseph didn’t allow what his brothers did to him make him hard, resentful, hateful and cruel.  Joseph remained humble and true to his heart and to his God.  He continued moving forward with his life.  Joseph knew his worth as a human being.  Not as a powerful ruler over Egypt but as a messenger of God.  It seemed that God was working through Joseph and had big plans for him.

Another thing to point out is that Joseph didn’t forgive his brothers at the first sight of them.  Before Joseph could forgive his brothers, he needed to be sure they were truly sorry and not the same as before.  Forgiveness did not come forth as easily for Joseph’s brothers as it did for the prodigal son.  Only after Joseph was sure his brothers were not selfish and cruel was he able to forgive them.  His brothers were sincere in their humility.  They were submissive in his presence and sincerely remorseful for their actions.

For me, when I hear Jesus speak about forgiveness, these are the elements I think about.

I believe that if someone is truly repentant of their actions that caused us harm and apologizes, then we have an obligation to forgive them.  Truly forgive.  However, if it becomes a repetitive cycle, as in abuse, that’s a very different story.  When a person is truly sorry and remorseful for their actions, they don’t retreat back to cruel or selfish acts over and over again.

On the other hand, we may or may not ever hear an apology or an admission of guilt or remorse from a person who directly or indirectly harmed us.  However, we cannot allow what happen to freeze or burden us with anger and hatred.  Whether or not we ever get an apology or are given an opportunity to forgive, we cannot allow the actions of someone else who meant us harm to keep us from our good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

 

 

Divine Intervention

Do you believe in divine intervention?

I learned about divine intervention many years ago.  Silent Unity talks about divine intervention in great lengths and detail.  It is one of the most important aspects of the Silent Unity teachings.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have experienced divine intervention.  And every time, it blows my mind.  Sometimes I giggle with amusement, wondering who really is in charge of our life, like there are angels up there guiding our path, sometimes almost puppet like.

Today was a fine example of just that.

My son left early this morning.  He is volunteering with his youth group for a Silent Unity Prayer breakfast.  Unity of Dallas has hosted this event for the last few years.  We come together with Unity churches around the Southwest region.  Ministers, Licensed Unity Teachers, Members and Guest visit, and a keynote speaker comes down from Silent Unity.  There is prayer, fellowship and to be honest, a spiritual awakening that occurs both within and around.

I didn’t attend the Prayer Breakfast this year because I needed to take my car into the shop and have my side mirror replaced that had gotten broken.  Ken from Midas ordered the part and called me yesterday to tell me I could bring in my car today to have it fixed.  So I got ready this morning and went down to Midas.

One of the gentlemen, Binoy, behind the front desk asked me if I was leaving my car with them.  I told him that I hadn’t planned on it.  Getting my car serviced is usually a great opportunity for me to just relax and catch up on my reading.  Today, I brought Heaven Is For Real.  Binoy said they were shorthanded and I may have a long wait, two or more hours.  I informed him that I was by myself and I had no way of getting a ride back home.  He tells me, “No problem, I will give you a ride.”  Now I have been going to this Midas for at least five years.  I really do love these guys.  They are friendly, honest and respectful.  And they never try to sell me anything additional.  Whenever I need to take a long trip out of town or state, I take my car to them.  I trust them to service my car.  They’ve even given me a coupon credit when I didn’t have the coupon with me.  They are just that kind of shop.  But never before have they ever offered to give me a ride.  Then I explained that I’m a single mom (from out of state) and don’t know of anyone who can bring me back to the shop to pick up my car later.  Binoy said, “I will come pick you up.”

Really?”

We get in the car; have a nice conversation and Binoy drops me off at the apartments.  Just as he is leaving, I realize that I have no key to get into my apartment.  I left my car keys with the guys at the shop.  Since I always wait, it never crossed my mind to remove my apartment key.  I chuckle at myself and my predicament for a moment.  Then I decided to call the leasing office.  I explained my situation and asked them if I could borrow a key to get in my apartment.  They said sure and told me to stop by the office to pick it up.  I said, “I’m walking that way right now.”

As I am walking inside the apartment complex down to the front leasing office, I see a lady in a van slow down and lean forward to look at me, as if the person recognizes me.  The passenger window rolls down and it is Allison and her daughter who I just happen to know from our Unity Church for the past seven years or longer.  She looks about as surprised to randomly see me as I am to see her.  Especially since our church is about twenty-five miles away from where I live.  I asked her what is she doing in our area.  She said her daughter had a birthday party to attend.  Allison got lost inside the apartment complex trying to find the building and apartment that was hosting the birthday party.  We have a large apartment community with 18 buildings and 415 units.  It is very easy to get lost.

I tell her my story (why I just happen to be walking around in the apartment complex) and tell her I can get in and help her find the building.  We drove towards the front and find the building she is looking for; which, by the way just happens to be right next to the leasing office.  How about that?  It was a win-win for both of us.

That’s divine intervention.

The next time you are in a situation where things seem to be going wrong; take a deep breath, wait on divine guidance and allow divine intervention to take place.

 

All things work together for good…  – Romans 8:28Image

The Privileged

I just finished watching 12 Years a Slave and so many thoughts are running through my head.  I’ve seen slave movies before, Roots, Django Unchained and a host of others.  I learned nothing new.  But it did reconfirm my belief that the people back then, and by people I mean “white people” were seriously lacking moral values.  Now I understand that not all white people were of the same wicked mind.  But I do think it is fair to say that the majority of the white people, especially those living in slave states were really fucked up.

Excuse my French.  But we are grown folks rights.  I mean if we can watch a film using the “N-word” and watch human beings being sold, chained, whipped and hung for only the sake of a white man’s desires to be richer, well then, the “F-word” should surely not be as offensive as watching this Academy Award winning movie.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing this movie at all!  It was well written, well directed and very well acted.

Can you even imagine?  I mean really imagine what the black actors must have experienced emotionally to recreate this epic film?  I don’t think many of us can.  To allow yourself to be treated with such disgust and ignorance, even if only for make-believe when you yourself know in your mind that the story being told is not made up, and that it not only happened to ONE black man, but happened to many other black men and women whether they lived as a free man or woman or not.

I can only say how very thankful I am that my ancestors arrived in this North American Continent from their European counties in the early 1900’s.  How proud I am that my ancestors were not among those slave owners or cruel hired hands working for the slave owners.

My son and I have had several conversations about slavery and the world today.  And honestly, I do get somewhat frustrated when I hear the white privilege complain about other races, making their ignorant assumptions of how lazy certain races are and how the whites have to pay higher taxes because not everyone is pulling their weight.  I will tell you that in my thirty plus years of working, most of which has been in a large metropolitan area, I’ve worked with equal amounts of dedicated, reliable and loyal African, Latino and Asian American co-workers as well as Caucasian-European American co-workers.

But that’s not even the issue.

What the white privileged of America seem to forget is that slavery made this country VERY RICH.  I seriously doubt that we even would have had the status of the RICHEST country in the world had it not been for the hundreds of years, HUNDREDS OF YEARS of slavery; free workers who made slave owners, business owners, politicians and many other average white men very rich.  Economically, money was flowing, products were being bought and sold.  But at what cost?

These black men and women not only worked for free wages (which the indentured servants did as well) but they were held captive, beat mercifully and treated like animals and sometimes much worse.  To be torn away from your own children because human traffickers could get more money by separating the family, and then to be told, “you will forget all about them [children]” is an unforgivable act.  That’s what they told birth mothers, too, just before money would exchange for the newborn infant.

I wonder how many of us today, no matter what color our skin is, could last as a slave.  I often wonder had America not have had slaves, would it have flourished or even still exist as it is today.  How dirty is our land, our money, our country?  Does it make you proud to be an American knowing that we are rich and free because of the sacrifices that were forced upon human beings who were trafficked and sold and gave their entire life to a country that saw them as no more or less than an animal.

So you will excuse me if I don’t sympathize with you for having to pay a little more taxes that helps pay for unemployment, food stamps, wic, Welfare and Medicaid, which I have also been the recipient of and that many of you falsely claim is mostly used and abused by other races rather than the all righteous white race.  Considering we all still have our freedom, paying taxes to help a needy person, especially single mothers is a small inconvenience as compared to the hundreds of years the slaves worked for free to build this rich, bountiful and free country that so many of us take for granted.

And don’t even get me started on the Emancipation and the Civil Rights Era.

One Year Anniversary

March marks the one year anniversary for my blog.

It has been a wonderful journey.  With nearly 3000 views, your support has helped me grow and for that I am truly thankful.  Here are some stats…

The two top views on my blog… Views
Home page / Archives 590
One Woman’s choice by Karen Whitaker 99
The top post with the most views…

My Storybook Father

98
UNWANTED 96
The Birth/Adoption Community 85
 TO MY BIRTH MOTHERS 82
The Best Date of My Life 58
Abortion 54
My Choice 50
Unexpected Mother 46
Growing up HOH 42
Look Deeper 38
Single Mom 37
The Gift of Reading 36
My Wedding Day 35
I Dreamed of You… 35
Adversity 31
Mary, The Unexpected Mother 31
Trans-racial, Bi-racial 31
Courage 31
Top Facebook Shares…
My Storybook Father 55 shares
The Best Date of My Life 32 shares
My Choice 30 shares
UNWANTED 27 shares
Adversity 16 shares
The Gift of Reading 10 shares
Single Mom 9 shares
My Wedding Day 9 shares
The Bloggers’ favorites…
The Blame Game 8
The Magic Show 5
Trans-racial, Bi-racial 4
Courage 4
The Birthday/Anniversary Blues, Life After Relinquishment 4
Perception 4

Urban VS Country

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This is my son’s essay he wrote for a high school project.  I really liked it and asked him if I could post it on my blog.  Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts and opinions.

Urban VS Country, By Jaren

I believe it is better to live in the city than in the country because cities have so much more to offer.

In a small town everything is repetitive. You see the same people, go to the same places, do the same things, and eat the same things over and over almost like a never-ending cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I love small towns as much as the next guy and visiting is nice. It exposes you to something different, but I couldn’t live that way for an extended period of time. Small towns might be good for someone who likes familiarity, but the mundane tediousness gets old.

Cites give you the chance to meet a plethora of diverse people and differing cultures. Cities have generally good education systems and job options.  The city has sights, sounds and new beginnings that a small town could never offer you. Cities live and breathe to move forward and innovate, while small towns constrict to a generic lifestyle.

If you make one small bad choice in a small town, everyone will know.  You will be known by this.  But the city could care less. There are so many men and women in the metropolitan that no matter how many relationships you sever, you will always have the opportunities to meet someone new.

Cities boast so much more extravagance than a dusty old small town and the opportunities are endless. Cites have sprawling areas that can contain hints of rural and country counterparts to coincide with the massive buildings, and highly populated parts.

The city has something for everyone!

The Blame Game

I’ve had many conversations with my teenage son about the blame game and taking responsibility.  I think we all, at one time or another, have looked for someone to blame when something hasn’t gone our way.  We start pointing our fingers, “You’re to blame, and you’re to blame.”  It’s understandable, especially when the incident causes a ripple effect that sometimes creates added stress, hardship or disappointing consequences.

Most of us have seen someone driving recklessly on a freeway, rubber necking on someone’s bumper to urge them to move out of their way because they are in such a hurry.  The frantic driver will torture some other driver on the road, trying to bully them into getting out of their way because in their mind, if that one driver would move, they could get where they needed to be so much quicker as if the blame belongs to that one driver in front of them.  The truth is, more often, it has nothing to do with the car in front of them.  The frantic driver didn’t allow sufficient time to get to where they needed to be and the innocent driver just happens to be the subject of this frantic driver’s irritation and rage.

That’s what I call misguided blame.

A friend of mine relinquished her parental rights two times.  It was during the late 70’s to the early 80’s.  I don’t remember her telling me why she chose to carry her child instead of choosing to abort, as abortions would have been legal at that time.  She told no one of her pregnancy.  When she went to give birth for the first time, alone and scared, she was only fourteen years old.  She said the nurses were very cruel to her, which back then was not uncommon for nurses or society to harshly scold and blame women as the problem for unintended pregnancies.  They chastised her for getting pregnant and told her she should be ashamed of herself for sleeping around at such a young age.  But what the nurses didn’t know is that my friend was not sleeping around and was not to blame for getting pregnant.  You see, her own father was having sex with her.  He made her pregnant.

That’s what I call misguided blame.

I was visiting a birth mother’s community group page the other day and read a post from a new mother reaching out with her deepest emotions.  She was struggling as to whether she should go through with relinquishing her parental rights or not.  Many concerned individuals commented (from birth moms, adoptive parents to adoptees) with similar advice, “Do what you feel is right.”  I, too, did not try to convince her to parent her child or to relinquish.  However, one poster became very angry with her.  The poster was harsh in her comments that I felt were irrational.  She gave no consideration to this fresh new mom whose heart was heavy with a choice.  The poster tried to guilt this woman for wanting to keep that which was naturally given to her and was rightfully hers to keep.  Then she made assumptions about the hopeful couple and began blaming this new mother for the anguish the hopeful couple had surely endured while waiting to adopt and the grief that was surely to come.  But maybe, just maybe this poster herself has been waiting to adopt and now she needed to disperse her anger and bitterness towards this innocent young female as if this new mother was to blame for the childless couples who have no baby to hold in their arms and no child to parent.

That’s what I call misguided blame.

Likewise, just as the driver wishes to remove the vehicle from his path, and the pro-life campaigners wish eliminate the abortion clinics; there are also many birth parents who desire to eliminate adoption agencies.  Some birth parents blame the adoption industry for relinquishing their parental rights of their newborn baby.  And while I don’t defend unethical adoption practices, I know that the adoption industry itself is not to blame for mothers and fathers choosing to relinquish their parental rights.  Aside from the baby scoop era, women now-a-days have options.  Based on our unique circumstances and support, we can choose to abort, we can choose to continue our pregnancy for the next nine months and then parent or we can choose to give birth and relinquish our parental rights.

When I chose adoption, I had already experienced an abortion.  I had already experienced being pregnant, giving birth and parenting my first born child as a single parent.  I consciously made the choice to consider adoption for my second born.  The adoption agency or the adoption industry is no more to blame for me choosing to relinquish my parental rights than the abortion clinic is to blame for me choosing to abort my unintended pregnancies.

The truth is, there are too many people and politics involved to disburse blame at one target.  I’m not saying it is wrong to experience the blaming emotion.  But what I am saying is that sometimes, we don’t have all the facts.  Other times, we refuse to acknowledge our own misguided judgments.  And occasionally, we deny our own choices that resulted in the consequence.  We cannot control others who wrongfully throw blame at us but we can control how we choose to blame.  Blaming someone or something else can make us feel better.  I get that.  But when we hold onto the misguided blame and resentment, we become stuck in a place and our mind becomes a prisoner of our past.  If we want to heal and grow, we must be accountable for our part of the choice and the process.

Miley and the VMA’s

I don’t know about ya’ll but I have heard far too much about Miley Cyrus and her performance at the VMA’s.  But I may differ for my reasons.

Just about every news media from TV to local radio stations have covered the story and every time I heard or read something, there always seemed to be a derogatory slant towards Miley.  Our same media who seems to support the Anti-Bullying campaign in turn becomes part of the bullying frenzy against Miley Cyrus as they mixed their own tough opinions with other famed personality, causing animosity to spread across the airways triggering social media hate campaigns among the general population.  Even those who do not support Slut Shaming seemed to jump on the social media Miley band-bashing wagon.  I hate to be rude, but give me a fucking break…or in this case, give this young ex-Disney girl one.

VMA performance (with Miley Cyrus)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meC2qt3QAXU

First of all, she is not a minor nor is she the Disney star she once portrayed.  Hannah Montana was a fictional character, with fake scenes and a fake dialog.  Miley Cyrus however is a young twenty year old female in the prime of her life.  Do you remember what it was like being twenty years old, in the club, dancing, having fun?  No, we may have not done our dancing on a VMA stage but this young woman grew up on TV and on a stage.  This is just another party for her.  She is enjoying life and she was expressing herself in the way she knows how.

The part that really bothers me… she was not on that stage alone.  There were many other provocative females shaking and twerking right with her.  And let’s not forget Mr. Robin Thicke whose song and video promoted this type of performance (even the fake hand).  Once again, the men, who go unscathed, seem to be an innocent bystander why the women get all chopped up by the media and a very cruel, hypocritical American society.

Blurred Lines (unrated version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwT6DZCQi9k

I don’t know why everyone was so up in arms about it really.  Hollywood has been producing videos of half-naked women dancing around fully clothed blameless males for years.  Apparently, it is to please an audience.  What audience would that be?  Well, I have to assume since the men are fully clothed and the women are half naked, that would be a male audience.  You see ladies; it seems it still is a man’s world.

Eminem

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0A8a3V177o

Nelly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r67xcDqKQYo

Justin Timberlake (Explicit)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07FYdnEawAQ

The message is clear.  Men can exploit women anytime and have been doing so for ages (let’s not forget Girls Gone Wild) but when a strong woman does it for herself, she gets pounded with critiques and insults.  What kind of bullshit is that?

Not too long ago, Nicki Minaj (whom I love) performed a twerking lap dance for Lil Wayne on stage at the Billboard Music Awards.

Billboard Music Awards (Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiN73Gnshsw

Funny how this didn’t hit the media airways like Miley’s did.  Is it because Miley had a Disney image to maintain?  Since Miley was a Disney star, does that make her more vulnerable and susceptible to social ethics than others?  Maybe it’s because Miley is from rural Kentucky and Nicki’s from New York?  Or maybe it’s because Miley is white and Nicki is black?  Yes, I do feel that society views these two races differently.  Society likes to fit people and races and genders into certain stereotypes.

Sir Mix-a-lot

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ImZTwYwCug

Sex sales!  We hear it all the time.  Apparently it is true because we can’t go anywhere without seeing provocative pictures, videos and commercials trying to sell or promote a product.  And most times, it seems the female body promotes the most sales.  Let’s face it ladies, men like stripping us down, pimping us out and putting labels on us (good girls, bad girls, slut, prude, tease, freaky, trashy, easy, bimbo, cougar, or my personal favorite, BITCH!).

Rihanna – S&M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdS6HFQ_LUc

It’s time we wake up and smell the coffee.

I say collect that paycheck and ROCK ON, ladies!  Most of all stay strong, confident and sexy!

Christina, Pink, Lil Kim, Mya, (and Missy)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQa7SvVCdZk

Forgetting the Past

I get perplexed when I hear someone say, “Forget the past,” or “In order to forgive you have to forget.”  I can see if these phrases were used as metaphors but in most insistences, they are not.  Truth is, some folks take it literally, as if we as human beings can willfully forget a memory.   Can we?

Sometimes our minds will voluntarily remove memories without any conscious effort on our part.  And it seems our brain is not biased on which memories it chooses to retain (pleasant or unpleasant memories).  I’m talking from personal experience.  Wouldn’t it be nice, though if we could just delete or transfer unnecessary data, especially recollections that contain wounding memories?  I wonder if it would make us better off as human beings or worse off.

Remembering a bad memory could benefit us, right?  Example, my son burnt himself on the oven stovetop.  I warned him previously, probably several times over the years about touching the top of the stove.  For whatever reason, he touched it and as a result burnt his hand.  In this scenario, we have a human being and an object.  Seems silly to ask my son to just forget the incident and forgive the stove.  I’m sure initially, this was a bad memory; he was hurt and he cried.  However, in this case, I want my son to remember so the next time he is near the stove, he will be more cautious.  He now has had an experience with the stove and has felt the result of his actions after touching the stove.  This memory will hopefully keep him safer in the future.

Stoves are different than humans.  It wasn’t the stoves intent to burn my little boy.  Part of its job is to heat up and cook food so it was doing what it was designed to do.  My son’s burnt hand healed in a couple days and there was no scar.  While my son’s actions caused this temporary wound, he probably forgot the incident itself but kept the memory of the consequence.

What if someone was burnt from head to toe by an incident that was not caused by their own actions, but by someone else’s?  Would the memory fade away as easily for this burning victim as it did for my son?  I would think that this person would be reminded often of the incident.  Would it be fair to tell this person to just forget it?  What about the wife who was abused for years by her husband or the parent who lost their child or relinquished their infant, or the kid who was physically, sexually or emotionally abused?  It’s human nature to remember.

I don’t buy into the “forgive and forget theory.”  Here is why.

If anyone has adopted an animal that was abused, then you understand the ramifications of how a bad memory can have everlasting effects.  Like the animal, we may also flinch when someone raises their hand, or run and hide in our bedroom behind locked doors to avoid verbal or physical abuse by the perpetrator.  Do we believe that we can just tell the animal to forget the past?  Do we believe that just stating this one line sentence has the power (if we so choose) to eradicate a bad memory of an upsetting experience?

When a parent or an authoritative figure bullies a child, the child’s voice and feelings are suppressed because they fear the repercussions of defending themselves.  The abused child is unable to grieve and therefore is unable to heal.  As that same child moves into adulthood, they may carry some effects of the “abused child” with them.  As an adult, they finally have their voice and are now capable of defending themselves but more importantly, healing themselves.

Truth is some memories just last longer like the ones that cause a wound of the heart.  Damaging or critical words barked at us can remain etched deep in our brain like a leech unwilling to loosen its hold.  As much as we would like nothing better to forget the memory long after we are free from the situation or the people who helped create those painful incidents, we still carry those memories with us, like it or not.

I am not endorsing hate or revenge but what I am saying is that we should not use a blanket policy for the “forgive and forget theory.”  It is a little more complex than that.  Otherwise, we are making light of a situation that may need some serious treatment or intervention.

We have seen tried and true results in support groups helping people with common issues to heal from their past and/or unhealthy habits.  Who better to understand you than a person who has had a similar experience?  Support groups understand that it’s okay to feel denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.  These like minds do not tell their fellow comrades to forget the past or make someone feel trivial for feeling as they do.  Support groups allow each individual to speak about their struggle and they listen with empathy.  They come together communally so each person understands that they are not alone.  In due course, they allow each individual to evolve from a place of lack to a place of abundance.

Telling someone to forget a memory or incident is like telling someone to ignore the problem.  If you ignore a serious flesh wound, you risk having more serious complications.  It could become infected, or gangrene could set in, or a number of other conditions. Unlike a computer brain, we cannot reprogram our mind; take it back to manufacture’s settings, or wipe the memory clean.  In order to heal our mind’s memory, we have to actually remember the incident, the people, the words, and the actions until all those things have no power over us any longer.  Once we have reclaimed our power and we can remember with no pain or hatred, then we have forgiven.    Image

To My Sisterhood, Motherhood…

Being a single parent can have it’s challenges. But two things that helped me get through were these.

First, God, of course. I prayed often. I asked God to help me be the mother and parent I needed to be in order to teach my son that would put him on his life path. I knew God gave me Jaren for a reason and I wanted to be sure I was the kind of parent Jaren needed in order for him to become the man that he needed to become…to obtain the purpose and reason for his life.

The second was my family and friends. My mother and sister often praised me and told me what a wonderful mother I was. Of course, I lived in Texas and they lived in NJ so they didn’t always see me at my worse but their confidence and praise of my parenting skills helped me keep striving. And my friends, co-workers, and even church members of various ethnicity complemented me and would tell me what a great job I was doing.

Now… I am in no way a perfect mom. I surely cannot take all the credit for my son because he is wise beyond his years. But knowing all these people believed in me and my parenting skills made all the difference in the world. They gave me hope and helped me believe in myself. So for that…I say…THANK YOU!

Look Deeper

In the Lion King movie, there is one scene where Rafiki finds Simba and tells Simba his father is alive. Rafiki leads Simba to a watering hole. Simba looks into the water and only sees a reflection of himself. Simba becomes disappointed and Rafiki tells Simba, “No, look harder. You see, he lives in you.”

Just like Simba’s father lives within him, God also lives within each of us. And sometimes, we not only need to look harder within ourselves but sometimes we may need to look harder and deeper past the surface of others as well. Like that all too familiar quote by author, George Elliot, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If we choose to open the book and begin to read the story, we may or may not become more interested. But we have to look deeper or harder to discover that there is more to this book than it’s cover or it’s title and there is more within each person than what meets the eye. Our eyes and ears can only see and hear but they cannot make judgments or assumptions. It’s what happens after the experience leaves our sight and sound and ascends to our brain where we process this information when we need to look deeper.

To further explain this concept, think about the first time you saw The Breakfast Club or The Green Mile. These movies are about perceptions. Think about how we as a viewer initially perceived these characters. For many of us, our reflection was mirrored on screen through the perceptions of particular characters portrayed in the movie. We shared their preconceived notions and their premature judgments. Then as the movie continues to roll, we slowly begin to see how our initial perception may have been wrong, we didn’t have all the facts, we weren’t looking deep enough. In the movie Philadelphia, it’s a little different. This time, our perception is quite different at the opening of the movie. As the movie rolls on, our initial perceptions become diluted. We may recognize ourselves portrayed in these condescending disapproving characters. Maybe not every detail of those characters but at the least, some of us had some of those perceptions inside us. In all three movies, the writer and the director were creating an experience that illustrates something about ourselves that we may or may not have even known existed within us. They were triggering us to look deeper.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when we look deeper we may see things that aren’t very pleasant and situations might get messy or may get a little ugly in order for change to occur. Sometimes, change may need to occur within ourself and other times, change may need to occur within our society. I know people with disabilities or special needs have been confronted with issues that were solely based on their appearance or someone else’s perception. And I’m certain that when Dr. King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks were standing, speaking and marching for Civil Rights, “some” members of our society were saying, “So what you can’t sit in the front of the bus. Who cares if you have to drink from a different water fountain? At least you have your freedom now.” But what is freedom if limitations are imposed on you solely because of your race or skin color. Members of both of these societies were thinking, “Look deeper.”

In my book, One Woman’s Choice, I discuss how my family felt about black and white couples. These same views extended out to the people of my hometown. So when I conceived my baby and decided I wanted to give birth and be a mother to my bi-racial son, I had concerns. How would my family treat me? How would society treat me and my new family? Would I be loved or hated? Would we be accepted or detested? I was wondering if others would look deeper.

My step father was one of those people who refused to look deeper initially. He did not want to be in the same house or social occasion with me or my son, Jaren, which lasted for twelve years. When Jaren and I went back home to visit our family, it was carefully orchestrated so there wasn’t any conflict with planned family events that would hinder their festivities. As a result, we were excluded from Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holiday dinners that were hosted by my parents and we were not invited nor welcome at other social gatherings.

Seven long years after Jaren was born, his father introduced our son to his family. Right away, Jaren’s grandmother conveyed her outpouring love towards her new grandson and was very nice to me. However other family members were not as gracious. Like the time we went to an amusement park with Jaren’s paternal family. My son’s uncle came along with his wife, both of whom I had not previously met. Jaren’s uncle and I walked up to each other, introduced ourselves and shook hands. However his wife walked the opposite way and refused to acknowledge me or my son. She walked ahead of me, engaging in conversation with other members of the family while keeping her distance from me and Jaren, eventually walking off in another direction. Now I can’t say for sure why she disrespected me and my son, but I can assume. I felt like she already had her mind made up about me and I was thinking, “Look deeper.”

I was watching 20/20 one night and they had a story about gay couples with children. They were interviewing this one woman who told of a story about how her and her family has gotten interrupted while trying to eat their meal in a restaurant. From time to time, a fellow patron would walk over to them and ask them about their family and their lifestyle. She said they’ve had to ask themselves “Do we ignore it or should we use this as a teachable moment?”

I guess that’s how I have tried to live my life. I’ve often told people there is a difference between racism and ignorance. Example: I had a co-worker call me an n#@ger lover, one time. That’s racism. Another time, I had a very dear and old friend who loves my son with all her heart refer to my son’s paternal grandmother as his “black” grandmother. That’s ignorance. Sometimes we just need to teach people and explain how some comments or actions can offend or hurt others. Sometimes we need to look deeper.

I’ve also had to use this technique in other areas of my life. More offensive comments have been flung at me related to my hearing impairment than racial comments. Partly because ignorant people will speak without thinking and may state something offensive unintentionally. But racist people (all races included) oftentimes will leave their harsh comments idling in their mind or release them in their “safe place”. Although, there are a few who have no problem allowing offensive words or judgments to easily glide off their tong.

Yes, I’ve learned that we cannot look at people with preconceived notions. We cannot determine our relationship with them by our first impression, by their insensitive comments or their ignorance and sometimes we may need to look past their hatred. Like the time I started a new job and the white coworker who befriended me only to become cold and unfriendly a few weeks later after I displayed my family photos on my desk. Or the black coworker who said, “I didn’t know you have a biracial son,” and became more welcoming and sociable. Both of which now saw me differently.

Nevertheless, I will tell you that I have been pleasantly surprised by numerous people that I have encountered who chose another road, a higher path of brotherhood. People that I initially thought would judge me and my interracial family but did the complete opposite. It was during these times I was assuming. I was judging a book by its cover. They were looking deeper and I wasn’t looking deep enough.

Just to name a few…I’ve seen a true Texas Cowboy, who honors the history of the Confederate Flag, and his family welcome me and my son into their home and show respect. I’ve seen a wealthy, elderly man engage in an intellectual conversation with my adolescent son in a furniture store and then hand him a $20.00 bill and say, “Treat your mom to lunch.” with nothing expected in return. I’ve been in the check-out line at the DMV and seen a lady pull out a Ty beanie baby from her purse and hand it to Jaren as a gift to keep his hands busy. I’ve seen a server give my son an extra scoop of ice-cream with no additional charge. I’ve seen a co-worker hand me $600.00 to help me pay my over-due bills because she knew I was a single mom without child support. I’ve beheld my son gather around the table in the homes of our black, white and Latino friends’ who welcomed us in their home for the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holiday celebration, bowing our head in prayer.  And I’ve had old childhood friends extend their friendship and loving support to me and my son and I would think to myself, “Why me? How am I any different than those who came before me?”

More importantly, I’ve seen my son look deeper into the souls and warm the hearts of the old-school, senior citizen to the narrowed minded co-worker; the honky haters to the radical racist and everything in between with his smile, his hand shake, and his lovable eccentric personality. And we’ve both seen members of our own family turn their heart full of hate and judgment into a heart filled with love and acceptance.

No, we cannot judge a book by its cover.

Prejudice appears in many forms. It’s when we have a pre-conceived notion about a person just by looking at them or listening to them. We’ve all had moments of misrepresentation, words that came out that were not intended to be received in a negative or hurtful way. But true bigotry is not defined by words but rather by action and thought. In the end, how we choose to react is truly what defines us. Sometimes, we may need to educate, and other times, we may need to be patient and allow ourselves to see more than what appears to be showing or expressing on the outside.

It’s during these times when I hear God say, “Look deeper.”