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Forgiveness and Politics

September 5, 2012 0 Comments

While I don’t typically talk about politics on this blog, I had to share this story because of the powerful lessons I learned last week.  For those who disagree with my political position, I pray that you can see past that to the message this post is intended to share.  Much love and light!

The political season is in full effect.  I tend to get very frustrated and worked up around this time.  This time, instead of expecting the worst, I decided to try to watch last week’s Republican National Convention (RNC) with an open mind.  I wanted to look through the lens of unconditional love and compassion, instead of the judgement and anger with which I watched in the past.  I wish I could say it was a breeze, and that I did it perfectly and then sang “kumbaya”.  Not exactly.  I had a really tough time listening to some of the speeches.  There were many moments in which I had to pause the television and give my husband an empassioned speech about why I get frustrated when they say this or that.  The night after Mitt Romney’s speech, I was feeling especially bitter (For readers outside of the U.S., he is the republican candidate running against President Barack Obama).  As I went into prayer and meditation that evening, I spent some time realigning myself with the qualities of God (love, peace, kindness, compassion, etc.) and trying to release the thoughts of the ego that were running rampant in my mind (resentment, judgement, hate, etc.).  I asked that the Holy Spirit help me see this in a different light.  I knew I needed help, and was certain He could give it to me. 

Shortly after prayer, I spent some time thinking about the root of my anger.  Based on all of the work I’ve been doing this year focused on spiritual development, I know that when anger comes up in me that it has nothing to do with what someone else did and everything to do with how I perceive what has happened.  I thought hard about which of the statements that are frequently made by republicans really pushed my buttons.  The ones that came to mind were: “Anyone can make it in America if they just try hard enough”, “We all came to America looking for greater opportunity and a better life”, “I pulled myself up by my own boot straps and so can you”, and “We built this.”  At first glance, they seem like empowering statements.  After my pondering time, I finally reached the source.  It was not exactly what I expected.  I realized that my greatest frustration with those statements stems from the experience of my ancestors, later labeled “African-Americans”, who did NOT come to America looking for greater opportunity…they were brought here in chains and forced to do hard labor to build this nation.  They were viewed as less than human, and were treated as such.  For generations, my ancestors had to work twice as hard to be on “equal” footing with white Americans.  Yes, America is supposed to be the land of great opportunity but, unfortunately, we are still not at a point where all people view African-Americans as equals.  We have certainly come a long way since slavery, and we have a LOT of success stories, but we are not there yet.  I won’t spend a lot of time on recent unfortunate (and sometimes tragic) examples of racism.  Nor will I recount the number of times I have directly experienced or been witness to the inequalities that are still present today, as that is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but I will say that we are certainly not in a color and class-blind utopia that the republicans often paint.  And, I’m not sure we would be as far along as we are today without some assistance being provided to help along the way.

It felt good to have acknowledged the root of my anger and frustration.  It really wasn’t about the republicans.  It was about something much deeper – the bitterness I carried about how difficult it has been for generations of African-Americans since the era of slavery.  I was also saddened by the fact that people think it’s okay to let others (particularly those less fortunate) fend for themselves and are completely okay with not providing support.  I was frustrated by feeling the need to lay aside my African heritage in order to conform or “look the part” throughout much of my life.  And I was frustrated by the fact that all people receiving government assistance (which include African-Americans, among other groups) were being blanketly labeled as “lazy” or “not working hard enough”.  I was also frustrated by the stories that were shared at the RNC of people who “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” because they made it seem as if they didn’t benefit from any type of assistance along the way.  I felt like the African-American experience (and the experience of other marginalized groups) in particular was being totally disregarded in the comments made by the republicans and that is why I was angry.  I certainly believe that anything is possible with hard work, but I also believe in assisting others along the journey.  In that moment, I knew I had some serious forgiveness work to do if I wanted to be at peace. 

The next day, I was led to turn on the parts of the RNC that I recorded but hadn’t yet watched.  The first thing that came on was Mitt Romney’s campaign video.  Hearing his story really helped me see a different side of him.  The videos of him with his children…the story of how he and his wife met…the stories about his father’s political career, etc.  All of this helped remind me that his opinions about life were formed based on his life experiences and what he has been exposed to up to this point.   He did not grow up in a family like mine and did not experience the same struggles I experienced (or that my ancestors experienced), so it is natural that he wouldn’t understand that perspective. 

I was reminded of a time that a former boss was telling me about how her ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland and Poland, and then she asked me where mine were from.  I paused for a moment thinking about how best to answer this question.  I finally emerged from the silence and said, “I don’t know.”  I paused for a moment still trying to figure out the right way to put this (and trying to calm myself down because I was angry that she would ask what I viewed as a ridiculous question).  She looked very puzzled.  Finally, I said, “Most African-Americans don’t know what countries in Africa their ancestors came from because they were separated from their families, forced in boats, stacked on top of one another, brought over to the U.S. in chains, forced to give up their names and traditions, and sold to slave owners who gave them names and forced them to do hard labor for no money.”  She apologized profusely and stated that she really didn’t realize that.  She knew a little about slavery (whatever brief lesson she learned in history class back in elementary school), but she never connected those dots.  She didn’t know any better. 

As Maya Angelou says (and I often quote), “when you know better, you do better.”  I believe that if anyone who makes similar statements to the ones that got me so hot and bothered last week, knew understood the day-to-day experiences of people who have life struggles they have never known (racism, poverty, homophobia, sexism, etc.) they might begin to see things in a different way.  And, who knows, they might even find more compassion for those who have had less fortunate life experiences.  Instead of getting angry, I’m choosing to forgive.  And, you know what?  I feel lighter already.  What a release!  I had been holding on to that bitterness for years, and I’m so happy to let it go.  That bottled up anger was only disturbing my own peace – not the peace of those to whom my anger was directed. 

I also needed to remind myself to see the light in all people.  We are all creations of the Divine.  We are all one in Spirit, and cannot be separate from one another.  If I can remember this, regardles of the actions of others, I will be able to extend love and peace to all whom I encounter.  I’m so grateful for this situation reminding me of this simple Truth.  So, my forgiveness is not really directed toward anyone except myself because I am the one who forgot to see the light and chose, instead, to focus on perceived darkness.

The light in them (our brothers) shines as brightly regardless of the density of the fog that obscures it. If you give no power to the fog to obscure the light, it has none. For it has power only if the Son of God gives power to it. He must himself withdraw that power, remembering that all power is of God. You can remember this for all the Sonship. Do not allow your brother not to remember, for his forgetfulness is yours. But your remembering is his, for God cannot be remembered alone. This is what you have forgotten. To perceive the healing of your brother as the healing of yourself is thus the way to remember God. For you forgot your brothers with Him, and God’s Answer to your forgetting is but the way to remember.” ~A Course in Miracles

Before I got to a place of self-forgiveness and remembering the  oneness of all life (baby steps :-)), this quote from Mother Teresa really helped me along the path to healing the deep-rooted resentment I had been carrying for so long and directing toward certain groups of people.  (Note: I think the word “poor” in this quote could be replaced with “marginalized”, “homeless”, and many other words.)

“The trouble is that [some] rich people, well-to-do people, don’t really know who the poor are; and that is why we can forgive them, for knowledge can only lead to love, and love to service. And so, if they are not touched by them, it’s because they do not know them.” ~Mother Teresa

Keep shining!


P.S. For those who are less familiar with the history of the slave trade and its after effects, I ran across a blog that had a pretty thorough summary.  This is certainly not just an African-American story – there are various experiences throughout the African diaspora (and countless stories of the oppression of other groups).  I was speaking from my perspective as an African-American woman, and the unforgiveness and bitterness I was carrying due to my country’s history of slavery and racism.  Click here to read the entry.

About the Author:

I used to live life shackled by fear, doubt, and worry. I put on a happy face while navigating my day-to-day duties, but I was emotionally drained, stressed, and unhappy. When I hit rock bottom, and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I was determined to live life differently. I knew there had to be another way. Out of that determination, and guidance from Spirit, the "Living in the Light" blog was born. It documents my spiritual journey out of the darkness and into the Light. After nine months of publicly sharing my journey, and consciously releasing my attachment to the ego, I experienced a powerful spiritual awakening. I went from living in fear, doubt, worry, and stress to complete inner peace. My greatest passion has become assisting others on their own journey to inner peace. My spiritual memoir, From Stress to Peace: An Intimate Journal on the Journey from Living in Darkness to Living in the Light, is available now on Amazon and Click the tabs at the top of the page to learn more about the From Stress to Peace 21-Day Challenge, Living in the Light Retreats, 1:1 sessions, and the Living in the Light Community - all of which are designed to support your journey to inner peace. I appreciate you taking the time to visit the blog and look forward to supporting you in any way I can!