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Mac Walton, you probably remember the name from the What Will It Take For Black Men To Heal? piece he penned a while back, just sent me this piece on Forgiveness this morning and suggested it may be a good topic for everyone to meditate on and discuss:

Forgiveness: Woman enough? Man enough?
In German, it’s called Vergebung, in Italian Perdono, in Latin Venia, and in Ebonics, it’s “Come to Jesus”. But are we, as Black men and Black women, ready to take that long, silent walk to the altar, kneel down and, in a praying position, ask Jesus or The Creator lying some place deep within our soul to help us to forgive?

We’re talking about pardoning folks for the pain, injury, sin and wrongdoing that’s been done to us in the guise of taming the savages, manifest destiny, expanding the West, defending “the southern way of life,” upholding “the purity of white womanhood,” otherwise known as increasing the power and profits of white folk.

And we’re talking about pardoning not just white folks but black folks as well. And this kind of pardoning can get real ghett-o.

“So you want me to forgive the man I loaned my last $200 bucks to keep his apartment only to find out he spent it all on crack-- and didn’t give me any? You crazy!”

"So let me get this straight. You want me to forgive the man who left me for his secretary {That ho!} and who hasn't paid child support in three years. Did he send you here to talk to me?"

“Wait a minute: are you telling me I should forgive this woman who left me to shack up with my only friend and the best man at my wedding? I’ll forgive her--after I kick her black ***!”

Ultimately, we’re asking ourselves, “Should I forgive this white man for capturing and herding us into ships like cattle, selling us on the auction block like pack animals, lynching our men, raping our women and still holding his foot on my neck to this day?”

We know that, ideally, forgiving is the right thing to do. But ideals are one thing and reality is another. Some of us see forgiving as “giving up” or “letting the white man off the hook” and not releasing ourselves emotionally from the effect of someone’s behavior. And some of us feel that we shouldn’t forgive anyone unless they apologize first, not recognizing that this stance is just another excuse to remain tied up in emotional knots of anger, depression, hatred and revenge.

Forgiving is difficult
Author Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People and Stop Worrying And Start Living) understood the difficulty of forgiving. “Any man can criticize, condemn and complain," he wrote, "But it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.” But it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?) who seemed to understand just how much character it will take for African Americans to take even a single step on this journey, not to mention see it through.

“Change” he preached, “does not roll on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man cannot ride you unless your back is bent.” King understood that, while liberty is a condition of the environment, freedom is the domain of the mind, and that, to be truly free, we must free our minds and hearts from the heavy burdens of anger, guilt, hatred and revenge.

What is the hour of the night?
To transcend such feelings, we must ask, to paraphrase poet Queen Mother Audley Moore “What is the hour of the night?” and recognize that the Watchman’s midnight lantern lights brightly through the darkness. We must revisit our African history, studying not only great African empires but not-so-great, smaller yet important events marked by great moments of resilience, moments which included not only revolts but every-day acts of resistance.

This new reading will allow us to see not only painful events of the past but remarkable, heroic acts of both the past and the present, indeed, see how the present and past combine to define us a a people of courage, heroism and dignity. It will help us to understand why even the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas, a former slave himself, would marvel at our ability to persevere and declare “This struggle will be fought with words or blows or both, because the limit to tyranny is prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” In other words, the harder you hit us, the harder we keep coming back; and you just can’t keep a brotha and Sistah down for long.

These lessons from history will help us to see that, despite the hardships and brutality, we have traveled a long road to liberation with many rewarding mileposts along the way, becoming a stronger and more resilient people in the process. And, hey, if we can do it collectively, we can do it personally as well.

What it is
When we gain a greater appreciation of our struggle for liberation and begin to practice the art of forgiveness, a key will unlock the door to both our collective and personal salvation, all the emotional baggage of anger, depression and revenge will fall, like lint from our minds and hearts.

Dr. King may have said it best: “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

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