LIGHT Always wins out the Dark!

candle in the dark

Life is inherently complicated, and sometimes it’s easy to get into your groove and forget that it’s still a daily struggle. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen various topics that have sparked my interest, and I wanted to get in on the conversation. As many of you may know, this past week there was yet another Mass shooting. It feels like yet another cognitive distortion. Before Sandy Hook, we probably thought that no one would go into a school and deliberately kill young innocent children. History has thought us that we were wrong about that. For me there’s always been this type of respect for the sanctuary that is a church, at least hear in the United States. That it takes a certain kind of vile hatred to intentionally harm those at worship.

Regardless of what our Race relations look like today, there’s just a kind of un-spoke rule. That at least in your place of worship you’re free from that type of persecution. I too was wrong, hate doesn’t have boundaries. Hate is so vile it will cross any boundary to get it’s point across.

I must admit that because I haven’t directly experienced any kind of overt racism, I sometimes like to pretend that it’s not as serious a problem as some may make it. While I recognize that as a black male I have to be a bit cognizant, in recognizing that I could be the victim of racism. That people will and are judging me based on the color of my skin. I always find myself evaluating my own blackness.

What does it mean to be black? Does my skin color mean I’m predestined to act a certain way? That I’m inherently more dangerous than some people? That I’m some how a lesser educated and unambitious person that the rest?

These are questions I ask myself often, but I don’t get bogged down by the answers. I’m more focused on writing my own story and not letting society or even the color of my skin dictate who I’m to be. I’d never really thought about this before but race isn’t a genetic construct, it’s a social construct designed to help put people into broad easily recognizable categories. It’s not something necessarily designed by nature. While your DNA can tell you where you’re ancestral background has likely roots (Europe, Asia, Africa…) There is no exact biological way to determine a person’s race. This is such a surprising finding, because you hear about forensics determining the race and gender of a victim. The reality is that their answers are just statistical approximations. Yet we place so much emphasis on a person’s race.

Interestingly even for siblings who grew up in the same household, it doesn’t mean that they will have the same personalities. If we’re not guaranteed to have the same personality of people we’re directly genetically related to. Then why is it acceptable to believe that we will share similarities to those we’re not genetically related to? These attributes make the concept of race so interesting yet unnerving. The color of my skin doesn’t tell you much about me, just as you can sometimes never tell who your siblings are.

The tragedy in Charleston, SC has forced me to re-evaluate my understanding of the presence of racism in today’s world. There are many still alive today who went through the racial turmoil of the 1960s era. So the concept of racism isn’t that far removed from my lifetime. I think for us to not acknowledge that is dangerous. By remembering the past and our mistakes, we keep a constant reminder of our capacity for darkness and hatred. If we pretend that racism doesn’t exist anymore, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Science has show that we ALL posses an unconscious bias, that is part of the way our brain processes information. We must remember that just a few decades ago our government was the perpetrators of injustice. I don’t say this to be offensive, but rather to show how deep hatred and racism can go if unchecked. While we live in a society where our government isn’t usually the sponsors of racial attitudes, it’s not that far in our past that it has been eradicated.Desmond Tutu

I’m reminded a few lessons from the tragic events from Charleston. It’s not good for good people to always stay silent, because evil is always looking for a stronghold. If good people don’t stand up for what is right, evil will fill that vacuum. Secondly I’ve learnt that while we can feel a whole host of emotions during tragedy, LOVE should always be our focal point. My faith has thought me this important lesson about love:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Cor 13.1-7. NLT

I’m happy to see the outpouring of love from the community in Charleston, which is much different from the riots and the violence that we’ve seen in others that were faced with injustice. There are many aspects of love, one of which is forgiveness for wrongs. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you won’t be angry or upset when they’ve wronged you. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you won’t set boundaries to ensure you’re not taken advantage of. I think many people get the concept of love wrong. I’ll acknowledge that I’m also continuing to evolve in my own views.
I would like to encourage ALL  who read this to take a stand towards injustice. Without your voice hate will continue to thrive. Have you ever notice what happens when you light a candle in the dark? How the light seems to dispel the dark, that no matter how small the light, it can illuminate even the darkest space. How the light seem to bring a kind of peace to any situation. So I encourage everyone to let YOUR light shine in the dark spaces, to let LOVE win over hate.
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Please Forgive Me!!!

I'm Sorry

We’ve all been there where we’ve done something wrong, and we seek forgiveness. I’m currently taking a class through my Church, and I learnt something tonight that has totally blown my mind, and I thought I’d share it with you. We’ve all been betrayed by people before, even by someone close to us, and it has forever changed the relationship. From a Christian perspective we’ve always been thought to “turn the other cheek” and to not seek “revenge”, but when someone has wronged you, how do you turn the other cheek. There’s a story in Matthew 18:21-35, it’s about a rich master who completely wipes out his servant’s rather large debt (maybe millions in our present time). After he was let go by the master, the servant then finds another servant who owes him a rather small debt (possibly hundreds or a few thousands in today’s currency), and has the second servant thrown in jail. This story is to symbolize that God has forgiven us for all our sins, therefore we should forgive others for their sins against us.

While there is still plenty of debate about how to forgive someone, and whether you’re to seek retribution, the Bible seems to give plenty of examples of what not to do. Here are a few things I’ve previously known that were reiterated tonight.

What is Forgiveness:

  • To completely wipe someone’s debt away.
  • Although you’ve forgiven someone once, you’ll have to actively remember not to seek vengeance. (I’ve always felt guilty that I want to see the person pay, and couldn’t understand why that feeling seems to come back at times, I used to think that meant I haven’t forgiven them)
  • We can ask for forgiveness an unlimited about of time, there’s no number that God will say “Ok this is your last one.” (Some people, even many Christians find this hard to believe. I think this is because as humans there’s a point when we get fed up, but that trait doesn’t apply to God)

What Forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you’ll feel good about them again. Unlike God even though we’ve forgiven someone, our emotions are still tied to the memory of what they’ve done to us. (This is a bit of a drastic example, but in cases of abuse, how do you forget that you were abused)
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re ok with what they’ve done.
  • When I forgive, I don’t repay the hurt I feel to punish them. (This is where I had my ah ha moment)

As I pointed out in the last one, not repaying a wrong with a like wrong, that’s the one that really resonated with me. I’ve had a false belief about this one for a long time now. I understand that if someone lies or steals from you, you don’t lie or steal from them. I also understand that their are consequences to people’s actions. My false belief was tied to the consequences, e.g if someone stole from you and caused you financial hardship, your consequence for them shouldn’t in turn cause some type of financial hardship for them. That would be an example of an eye for an eye, which according to the earlier passage, that is not a correct response. The consequence of stealing is possibly going to jail, instead of an action that benefits me. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well, but it really got me thinking, if I’m to truly forgive someone, I can’t repay their bad behavior with my own bad behavior. Or better put I can’t gain an advantage or take any kind of retaliation. In other words Forgiving someone from  a biblical perspective, takes an active choice on my part not to punish or seek punishment for someone who has wronged me.

What I learnt tonight has fundamentally changed how I look at forgiveness. This seems to take a great deal of mental strength not to repay a bad deed with another, I foresee that I will have to really actively work on changing this part of my view towards forgiveness. If there is anything I can say for sure it’s that many times when we learn lessons from life or the Universe, it’s because we’re going to have to practice that lesson soon. I am going to have to work really hard on this one, in one night I’ve completely shattered a view I’ve held for 30+ years.

forgive me

What is Love?

Image

     I’ve recently been thinking about my life, and how I can live a more fulfilling life. I’d like to be the kind of person who makes others feel better, lift them up, make them feel empowered. But with my own problems to deal with how can I do that, how do I not become another unkind, uncaring, selfish person? The answer is to live a life of Love, Kindness, and Care. This quote from an article I saw summed it up best. (Check out What does Love Want)

Love is like water flowing, dancing down a riverbed. Embracing everything it encounters, water (love) flows smoothly around jagged rocks, finding its way brilliantly into and through the tiniest openings of any obstacle; it never stresses itself to flow uphill or fight against its own perfectly natural way. Sometimes, when amassed in significant strength, the immense force of water’s (love’s) own pure nature can completely obliterate everything in its path!

     A constant though that I’ve been having is that love is more like a state of being’ rather than a list of criteria we have to check off of a list. But how do you get to that state of being, Welcome to your next challenge, it’s not going to be easy, and you will have to battle this daily, but I’m going to stand by this. Of course I’m currently living this new skill, so I’m still in the experimental stage, but others much smarter than me stand by it. Living a life filled with Love, Tenderness, and Kindness isn’t easy, so how do you do it?

     To get a better understanding lets use anger, let’s say you want to get rid of anger or conflict that you’re feeling. Instead of focusing on not getting angry (by the way feelings like anger are normal, you can’t not feel them), focus on being more kind, or loving. One thing to consider is that being kind isn’t about you; you shouldn’t do something kind because you will gain something. You should be kind just because. Because you want someone to get a pleasant experience, or feel loved just because you have a deep feeling that they deserve love.

     So what does this mean, if your goal is to get rid of Rage, Anger, Harsh Words, Malice don’t focus on those feelings, focus on Kindness, Tenderness, and Forgiveness. To compare kindness is easy, it’s liked, it doesn’t worry or cast blame. So by practicing kindness you’ll get one step closer to Love, the state of being rather than a laundry list of things you’re looking to accomplish. Imagine how different the world would be if people were more kind, tender and forgiving. I’ve noticed that in practicing this way of refocusing my life, I’ve felt much better at work, in life, and at home. What’s remarkable is that I feel that people around me are starting to sense that something is different, but now the secret is out. I’ve been meditating, praying and acting with more love, kindness, and forgiveness. So let’s start a trend with us enlightened few, we can start mending the world.