Who I Want to Be & Forgiving White Men

This weekend was a moving one on a number of levels.

First, my spouse’s aunt, Frances, passed away two weeks ago, and her funeral was held on Saturday. We drove up to Philly for the service. I knew Aunt Frances (and referred to her as such, “Aunt Frances,”), but I’d only interacted with her a few times over the past 10 years of being with my spouse. But I couldn’t help but cry at how warm and loving her funeral was.

The last funeral I went to was my father’s, over three years ago, and it wasn’t at all moving. It wasn’t about a celebration of my father’s life, it was about showmanship—who could say the most the loudest? Who could get the most attention? Dad’s funeral was depressing, not because my father was dead, but because it seemed that everyone but a few were celebrating the lie he lived—the beloved pastor and bishop—not the person he actually was.

Given how weirded out I’ve been about the concept of time recently, after Aunt Frances’ funeral, I felt more inclined to think about how I want to be remembered. I pray it will be a long time before I am only a memory, but when the time comes (and it will, unless Jesus returns first, but God only knows when that will be… [See what I did there?]), I want to be remembered for my joy, my laughter, my love of learning, my authenticity, my enjoyment of challenges, my desire to break down barriers and blaze trails for women and people of color in business, my resilience, my emotional fortitude. And they will all be true. The most true thing anyone said about my father at his funeral was, “Al…He was Al.”

I realized that I also want to be remembered for not holding grudges. Though it comes naturally for me, I don’t want it to be so much a part of my character that people recall it as one of my top character traits.

On Sunday, the sermon at church was about being Better Together, Despite Our Differences. I’ll be honest: it was clearly aimed at white people, encouraging them to build bridges with those who aren’t like them. But I felt convicted, too. I realized that I’ve allowed my heart to harden toward white men, those who have caused me harm or facilitated it or stood aside and let it happen. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said that I needed to forgive white men the same way I forgave my father—knowing that they may never apologize or come to any type of reckoning with their wrongdoing, but forgiving them for me, so I don’t become bitter and resentful and allow those negative feelings to pervade my body and life.

So, I made a step toward it. I went to the altar and asked God to forgive me for holding on to feelings of resentment toward white men. And then I prayed with a white man, humbling myself before the Lord. Perhaps writing about this sounds like the opposite of humility, but trust me, it’s an additional part of the humiliation exercise. Admitting this is risky, as it makes me sound subservient, but in reality, it’s the opposite—I’ve gained a level of power by being obedient. I’ve found that forgiveness takes time, though, and it’s not like I’ll pretend the past never happened. I’ll just have way more internal freedom, which is what matters most.

I’m not a very emotional person, so the fact that I had these encounters back-to-back took a bit out of me. It almost feels like I went through a growth spurt, and suddenly my head feels miles above my feet. It’ll take some getting used to. Then I’ll move onto the next leg of the journey.

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