I’d like to share a story, for your consideration, and I am certain that none of you have ever experienced anything that I am about to share. Take comfort. Our ability to build true relationships, those rooted in justice-making and the project of liberation, require us to show up authentically, vulnerably, unapologetically.
A while ago, I had a friend. We saw each other. We supported each other. We laughed together. Cried together. Planned. Ate a lot of great meals together. We supported each other. She literally picked me up when I could not go on. She housed me. Fed me. Showed me love. Welcomed me into her family. She showed up.
And the emotional weight of being in relationship was difficult.
She knew I was struggling with dis-ease, an addict as a partner who was in active addiction, and the trauma of being Black in America. It was too much. And it was too much all the time. And it was chaos. But in the midst of it all, she was one of my rocks. On one day in particular, I remember crying seemingly uncontrollably. Life was too much. (Can anyone identify with that?). Just. Too. Much. And she did the kindest thing one could do: invited me to rest. To sleep. To reset. And I did.
And when I woke up… I realized that everything had to change. Everything.
Well, as I began a “fearless and searching moral inventory,” I had to confront a truth I was not willing to admit: I had participated in the active deception of my friend. Or more simply put: I lied.
As an agreement I made with a partner, I lied to my friend about my whereabouts, what I was doing, timelines, everything. One small lie led to another. And like anyone struggling for grace and mercy, I rationalized, justified, and explained my actions. My partner thought it was in my friend’s best interest. Sigh. I knew what I was doing was wrong but kept doing it. Out of allegiance to my partner. I broke trust. I was wrong.
And then, one day, the lies became the truth. Or so I believed.
And when I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized I betrayed our friendship… trust.
And, to be in the process, in the witness, present in the project of healing, I had to admit that I was wrong. Take full responsibility for my actions. The impact of my actions. Admit the very and exact nature of my wrongs. Be accountable. Be humble. And make a plan for accountability not to commit the same wrongs.
That. Was. Hard.
And is likely not complete because healing is a non-linear journey.
Testing… is this thing still on?
Maybe none of you connect with that story personally. I understand. My actions were reprehensible and the lesson costly.
But the grace of community kept me…
See, sometimes, we make agreements, alliances, and promises and do not understand the collateral consequences of our actions. Take for example, all of the white people in Money, Mississippi, who knew, for years, the true killers of Emmett Till. They did nothing. Said nothing. There was an unspoken commitment to white supremacy: we’re all in this together. That is to say, the single men who took young Emmett’s life were connected to each and every one of those white households. They feared that if they forsake the unearned privilege awarded to them, whiteness, they could no longer be protected by the institutions they designed to protect and prosper them. And this fear, privilege, and power is passed down generationally, mostly unacknowledged, unexamined, and undiscussed at dinner tables.
It is a lie. A distortion of the truth. A betrayal of truth. Reprehensible.
But yet, there is grace. There is grace in reaching out to each other, with humble hearts, broken open to the power of unconditional love, with a heart open for the healing that true connection provides… liberation. To be seen. To be welcomed into a family. To be called home.
In Beloved Community, we do not tell each other the lies that perpetuate racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, brokenness, or despair. We build. We move forward. We connect, in love, and focus on that which is life-giving, life-affirming, and life-nourishing. We connect; we... people of inherent worth and dignity.
One little girl saw what happened to Emmett Till. She held that secret for all those years. And finally, in the last moments of her life, she admitted the wrong: she lied. Everyone lied around her. She betrayed trust. Her actions… reprehensible. And, she too… like us all… are deserving of grace… a welcome into the arms of the people of inherent worth… a family… into unconditional love… home… Beloved Community.