I Can’t but God Can: Recovering from Racism, Sexism, Bigotry, and Hate.

Warning: This blog may contain words and stories of experiences that trigger strong emotions, so please read it at your own risk.

The last few years have been pretty volatile for my extended family, and I played a huge part in triggering their emotions. I want to start this blog by apologizing to my family members, especially to my sisters and mother, and additionally my aunts and uncles for the things that I have written over the last couple of years.

I now know that some of you were not ready to see the world through my eyes and hear about my experiences. This isn’t something that is easy to look at. It look me many years of self-work to unpack the baggage of my childhood and write it all down. I didn’t know it was going to be so emotionally triggering for all of you, so I’m sorry about that.

I now know that in my writing about my life so publicly, you are feeling like I’m breaking cardinal rule of family – “don’t air the dirty laundry.” I had mixed feelings about blogging, but I was encouraged by some people who had similar experiences, and they felt that connecting with my story and the progress that I’ve made helped them get past some big hurdles.  I’m sorry that you had to see my past so blatantly. It’s not shameful to me anymore, and I was ready to write about it, but I didn’t know that bringing up the past would be so painful for you.

The truth is, until I experienced enlightenment, and re-remembered that everything is right and good and lesson-oriented, I thought I was a victim. I know how hard it is to come to terms with my openness about the rough stuff in my life, and it’s probably really weird that I see it all as grace. Hearing my life stories can be emotionally draining, and it’s enough to make anyone really feel shame, guilt, abandonment, invalidation, pain, anger, disgust, denial… all of it. I felt those feelings during my life too. People who are very sensitive can be triggered by the things that I’ve written, and I apologize for being the stimuli for your own emotional triggers.

So, I’m sorry.

Now on to the meat of my blog:

A really nice man at work recently gave me a copy of a daily devotional by Pastor Joseph Prince titled Destined to Reign. This decorated military veteran always seemed so grounded, and coincidentally he always had this book open on his desk. When I would pop by, I would read a page, and the words were so meaningful. He finally just gave me my own copy of the book.

While reading this book, I started experiencing more memories of all the things in my life I said or did that were associated with the feelings of shame and guilt. Like many people around me, I was programmed to see the world in a very judgmental way – ironic, considering a core teaching of Christianity is not to judge your neighbor’s sins, because that’s the work of God.

I was programmed to say racist things and put myself above people of other races. Our town was mostly white, but it was clear in the thinking of my social circle that we were above the others.

I was programmed to think in a sexist way. I remember unfairly slut shaming women – in one case a victim of sexual assault. I remember having a conversation about abortion when I thought it was okay for a doctor to permanently damage a woman’s uterus while performing an abortion because she deserved never to have children. I believe my quote was, “scrape her deep, doc!” It makes me cringe when I think about it.

I was programmed to invalidate the experiences of others and be completely intolerant to opinions that weren’t part of the family opinion or the town opinion.

I thought gay people were sinners destined for hell.

There was a time in my life however, that I began to listen to my thoughts and actually questions why I believed these things. I met a girl who had an abortion, and she told me her story. While I was with her, I also experienced her deep sorrow through the story of why she had to make that choice, and I understood she wasn’t a bad person. She was a person who made the best choice she knew how to make based on her situation. That’s all.

I also observed hiring managers in corporate America make racist and sexist statements and decisions about employees, and I saw how much less women and minorities were paid for the same job. You think white women are paid less then men? You should see how companies pay black women, or *gasp* native women. Black women get a label of “lazy” and “angry” although some of my favorite colleagues are black women, and they’re amazing workers. Native women get paid even less. It wasn’t until I started experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, and in one case was blamed for a man inappropriately touching me at a work event, that I realized what it was like to be a woman in today’s sexist world. I also finally saw the pay gap when I became a hiring manager, and minority women were asking for salaries far below the market. Even when I went to get equity increases for this minority women, I had a harder time justifying the extra money than a white male employee.

In addition to abortions, racism, and sexism I also had programmed views of homosexual people. “They have AIDS” or “it’s a sin.” Yeah, well so is getting drunk, gluttony, greed, etc., but the same people who were programming me against homosexuality were alcohol dependent, had binge eating disorders, or were greedy. A couple relatives and a few friends from high school ended up in same-sex relationships or marriages, and I couldn’t be more happy for them. …and it’s not a sin. I’ve read, and re-read the parts of the bible that my Christian roots have pointed out, and it doesn’t actually say homosexuality is a sin. ..and it doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t, because it’s not our job to tell other people how to live their lives. Now that I know better, and I’ve been able to reprogram that improper thinking, I’m totally supportive of love in whatever way God has created.

I grew up in the Catholic church, and St. Thomas was one of many Christian churches in the community. One thing was certain – I didn’t belong to the “CCC.” That’s what we called the Covenant Church – or more specifically the Covenant Church Cult. The people that attended that church were referred to as the “Covies” and I was always put off by the things they thought. I remember hearing about a man in their congregation announcing that he was gay, and they shipped him off to a gay camp to get him straight again. When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what was going on, but in my mind a gay person should be booted from the church, not rehabilitated. Obviously I was wrong on both accounts. He should have been accepted by his church and left to live his life the way God intended.

The Catholics probably would have done the same thing as the Covies.

I came to understand that the only people who were really “sinners” were the intolerant, judgmental, racist, sexist, bigots and xenophobes. I fell into quite a few of those categories, and I realized that it was me who was incorrect in my thinking. It was me. I had bad beliefs, and they weren’t experienced based. They were fear and hate based, and I was living like a computer with bad programming and viruses. Ick.

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned in this daily devotional by Pastor Prince is that our sins have been forgiven though the blood shed by Christ on the cross. Whether or not you’re Christian or believe in that teaching, the practice of self forgiveness and acceptance creates a mindset that frees you from those icky densities where your actions are tangled up with emotions like shame, guilt, and anger. That stuff weighs heavily on your heart, and if you don’t “take it to the cross” it can build up and create a miserable life.

Today, more than ever, the political environment is thick with people who think the way I used to think. It’s not right thinking. It’s destructive to society, and it creates problems. Right thinking is acceptance of others despite our personal beliefs. Right thinking is love for our neighbors and enemies even though they do things that make us feel they’re not deserving of love. Right thinking is compassion for those who are suffering. Right thinking is protecting our environment which has been given to humanity to care for, not destroy.

On the level of my individual self, I can’t change the world. I can’t make my family help my sister who is going through a really rough spot in her life – no matter how many times I ask and they tell me to fuck off. I know I can’t save the water protectors in North Dakota from being hosed down with freezing water. I can’t stop people from being xenophobic against Syrian people. I can’t, but God can.

In the same ways that God – my greater Self – has transformed my life by pushing me in the throws of experience and hard lessons, I know the same can happen for anyone in the world. I urge everyone who reads this blog to question your thinking, and ask yourself if your belief system has overtaken your direct experiences. If you know someone who is different than you, experience who they are, and let your belief system become one of direct experience. Only you can undo programming that is destructive, and I pray that God lends a gentle hand in that process.

So on that note, I’ll wrap this up with a Rumi poem.

This being human is a guest house. 

Every morning a new arrival. 

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 

some momentary awareness comes 

as an unexpected visitor. 

 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, 

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, 

still, treat each guest honorably. 

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight. 

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 

meet them at the door laughing, 

and invite them in. 

 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 

because each has been sent 

as a guide from beyond.

– Rumi

I love you all!

The Guru Girl

 

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