Woman of colour black and whiteCan forgiveness heal, reconcile and help our quest for justice and equality?

“I believe that those demanding fair treatments are more awake than those demanding supremacy.”

Folks who are more enlightened than I am are able to see through any hurts they may have experienced and find the good in them and release any need for forgiveness.

I once attended a workshop on forgiveness. In it, we all stood in a circle facing each other.  The facilitator called out various challenging things that have happened to folks: “Step forward into the circle if you have ever been abused.” “Step forward into the circle if you have ever been cheated on.” “Step into the circle if you have been stolen from.” “Step into the circle if you have been abandoned.” This went on for a full hour.

For each of the challenges, folks would step forward and the facilitator would say, “Are you willing to be willing to see the perfection in what happened?” “Find the good that resulted from this thing that you harbour as terrible or bad.” “Find your part in it.” “Look into the eyes of another person and say, “I’m willing to see the perfection in what happened, I am willing to forgive myself and all others.” Even with all my intense spiritual training over the last two decades I still find myself calling this complete and utter bullshit. I recognize that I am not the fully enlightened Christ or Buddha who might be able to see the perfection in their suffering and those that perpetuated it.  So even if I have come to forgive those who abused me,

I do not see what happened as perfect. I would have preferred my opportunities for forgiveness to come with less pain.

Forgiveness, as I understand it, is really for the one forgiving. We are “giving” to ourselves the permission to release our resentment (re-sentiment) of something that has left us wounded. I forgive because my holding on to anger or hate or blame or any other holding keeps my heart preoccupied and not open and available to what new and beautiful experiences may come. So for those spiritual colleagues that say there is a divine plan in all the racial tension and that each is playing their perfect part, whether Nazi or KKK member or Black Lives Matter members, I say “bullshit.”

Christie as minister in purple
Christie as minister 

People who are espousing hate and people who are asking not to be killed and to be treated fairly are not playing their part. They are each expressing life through their choices and I believe that those demanding fair treatments are more awake than those demanding supremacy.

It’s easy to spiritualize it away by saying that you see the divine spark in every person and know that at their core they are all ‘fine people.’ And by saying so you can smugly sit on the sidelines and hold your hands in prayer positions while all around you there is deep suffering. And yes the Nazi, racist people suffer too. I get that.

What does all this have to do with the resurgence of transparent hate and racism we are seeing in our country today? I say everything. I must forgive those who are hating me, who want to oppress me and who may want to kill me. I must forgive those who stand by and watch, and I must forgive myself for not doing enough about it.

With forgiveness, I can see more clearly a path forward. I can see where I can apply myself as part of the solution. I can see that I can be visible and strong, and loving and kind as a contribution to the narrative. I forgive and I don’t see the perfection in the hatred. I see the lost-in-the-darkness of it.

I admit to you, what I really want is a letter from the United States of America that says: “Dear Black People, We are sorry that we built much of this nation’s wealth and prosperity by utilizing and brutalizing you through slavery and apartheid.  We are sorry that we have allowed forms of this oppression to remain in our social, economic, educational and judicial systems.  We don’t know how to fix it, but we think being honest is the beginning.

We were wrong to treat you as less than human and we are wrong not to recognize that the vestiges of that treatment have had grave costs for you and your families for hundreds of years.  Please forgive us and let’s begin a new era. It will be messy and unsatisfying for a time as we find our way but it will be better for all of us if we can stay in the process of making this country a safe, welcoming, inclusive and fair place for all its people.”

Now I am willing to see the perfection in that.