My Letter To Anyone Who Is Willing To Start The Conversation on Race
I’d love to talk with you. My heart is for you and not against you. I’ve felt your pain as the scabs of wounds both historic and present have been ripped off, leaving you fragile, bleeding, and longing for relief.
I want to understand your experience, your perspective so that I can continue to grow in my own. Perhaps this time in our country has brought us to a golden opportunity where, for the first time, we can talk as neighbors, as friends, as family, about the issue of race and move towards the healing and reconciliation for which we all long.
When you shared your experience a few weeks back about the pain associated with civil war monuments, I heard you. I get that your perspective of our history is stained with tears for what your ancestors endured, the struggles they faced. And faced against their will.
I want to hear more. I want to talk and share together our experiences of race today so that we can collectively heal and remove any shadow of racism that hides in this great land.
I know you long for white people like me to understand and validate your point of view. I realize there is a deep pain throbbing in your belly that longs to be heard. Acknowledged. Healed.
Yet when I asked if someone like me could love you, validate you, and at the same time hold my own perspective on our country’s history, you responded quickly and clearly, no.
Room For Two
So saddened in my heart, I ask myself, Where do we go from here?Is yours the only experience that matters? Is yours the only point of view that is valid? Or must I abandon myself entirely, my own history, my own identity, my own experiences, in order to show my love for you?
My heart breaks. I’ve learned in my experience as a therapist that the very concept of emotional health is the ability to hold onto ourselves—our identity, our beliefs and values, our passions and purpose—while being close to someone who may be different than us.
Could our relationship be a safe place for me, too?
How can we possibly hear each other, grow together, and learn from each other if our relationship is only safe for one of us?
When you asked me why white women don’t talk about race issues, I responded that most of us are afraid. It feels like a no-win proposition. No matter what we say, no matter what we do, at some point in the conversation (usually when we disagree,) we will be called a racist, a hater, a bigot.
Most of us are none of these things. The white women I know have a heart of gold, who love, who listen, who desperately want to be part of the solution. Yet, when you almost instinctively throw out labels and accusations, how are we able to hear you or join you? The answer is, we are not. Thus we remain stuck.
John Gottman, a psychologist and leading researcher on relationships describes name-calling as contempt, and one of the deadly Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in relationships. Though we want to, we cannot hear you when you castigate us, demean us, and hurl names at us. We instantly feel unsafe, and our defenses rise up to protect us.
Please don’t label us. Even when we disagree. Don’t.
We will only heal as we learn to sit safely with each other. As we are able to listen to each other.
Listening Is A Two-Way Street
Would it be okay for me to speak in our conversations? Could my perspective be just as valued and needful to our healing as yours?
Could you listen to me? Me. A white woman. From the South.
We both have things to share. Important things. Needful things. Or is our conversation more of a diatribe than a sharing of hearts? A one-way street. A dead-end of sorts.
We will never find our way to the healing path as long as we’re stuck on dead-end roads.
I believe we both have things we need to learn from each other. We both have soul-wisdom that desperately needs to be experienced by each other.
You are right and lovely and beautiful about so many things, but are you right about everything? Could we share in our rightness? Is it possible that somehow I could be right, too?
Again, defensiveness, is another one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse that will prevent any healing, destroy any hope of understanding. Coming together.
The Art of Respect
When I hear you repeatedly admire your intellect and your unique ability to gather accurate information while at the same time subtly insinuating that I may be less adept at gathering or understanding information, you dismiss and demean me.
Do you really feel that anyone who disagrees with you is incompetent? Do you really feel solely possessing of intellectual resources capable of analyzing information and distilling a qualified position?
Could we both analyze the same information and draw valid individual conclusions based on our unique set of individual filters, beliefs, and experiences?
The Road Called Redemption
So where is the road called Redemption? What is the legacy that our stories will tell? It could be beautiful, I know that. I pray for that.
Let’s write this next chapter together. It is the only way.
Our politicians—all of our politicians— use these issues for political gain. Must we let them win each and every time? Could we take back the issue from the political realm and begin to do the work, the real work of laying down our weapons and coming together as families, as friends, as neighbors, and as communities?
Our politicians want us to remain divided. Must we let them?
The issue of race will never be solved in this country politically. Race wounds will only be healed as we take them back, stop listening to the talking points, stop enflaming the hate-filled rhetoric from both sides on social media, and begin to sit down with one another.
Invite your neighbor into your home. Share a meal with them. Pray with them. Talk with them. Yes, talk. It will be uncomfortable. It will challenge us. It will strengthen us and make us better. Hopefully it will draw us together, if we allow it.
We must be respectful. No name-calling.
We must consider an experience different than our own.Each side has a valuable perspective.
Don’t just say your willing to listen. Listen.
We must take back the issue. Don’t leave if for the politicians.
I want you to know that you are not my enemy. Please don’t make me yours. Let's work together. Work. Dig in. Struggle. We can. We must. We will.
And we can overcome anything if we overcome…together.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:5ESV
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
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