Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: ethics (page 1 of 4)

Forgiveness for Whom?

I try extremely hard to not speak on behalf of God. Instead, I’m inclined to report on what God didn’t say. The ways that holy scripture can be twisted for personal benefit is endless, especially to an audience who has such little understanding of the culture to which it was originally written (a BFD, in my opinion).

So when prominent Christian leaders make big public statements, I hold my breath. On the one hand, we need their wisdom. I have my own personal favorites and when she or he speaks, I listen and absorb. I try to filter and use my own wisdom, but I know I’m never perfect in that regard. Sometimes I trust because I’m not at the point of being able to sort it for myself. And that’s okay. But Big Christian Leaders may not always keep this in mind. In fact, sometimes it is exploited.

Now that several Big Names have asked the Christian public to forgive Trump, I feel compelled to offer a warning; a reminder about what forgiveness involves.

Forgiveness is rarely about the offender. It’s about the offended. To be clear, Trump hasn’t asked for forgiveness. He doesn’t feel he did anything wrong. So we’re not offering reconciliation because his heart has softened and he realizes the error of his ways.

Often, forgiveness arises as a means of freedom for the one forgiving. It’s a weight you don’t have to carry anymore. Sometimes, we have to forgive and forgive and 10 years later you find you’ve picked up that same baggage and accidentally started toting it around with you again. It’s a conscious decision to set something aside for the sake of your own heart.

Jesus challenges to us to forgive in a limitless supply, because in forgiving others we lean into our own forgiven state – and vice versa. Often we feel more compelled to forgive once we realize our own forgiven-ness. Freedom begins to define us, rather than the smallness we feel with guilt and hatred. And the more you forgive, the easier it is to forgive again.

When you forgive someone, you’re freed from their actions defining you. This does not give license to the person to continue to hurt you. You can forgive someone, set that weight aside, while not inviting the behavior back into our lives.

The church has a terrible, nasty history of using forgiveness as a means of holding its people in situations that are unhealthy. “You need to forgive” – especially when in context of Jesus’ words that we will only be forgiven to the extent we forgive others – are weighty words. No one wants to feel un-forgiven, so the threat of a heavenly withholding can push people into corners.

Church leaders have used this logic to keep women in unhealthy and even dangerous relationships. Some pastors have been quick to tell the woman that her job “as a Christian” is to forgive – and while forgiveness is a godly goal, it is not synonymous with staying. Forgiving doesn’t give him a right to do it again. You can leave, and forgive. 

So when these leaders are pleading for a man’s forgiveness, let’s be clear: it’s for the sake of their own conscious. They’re looking to rectify their hearts with what they know to be wrong.  It is not synonymous with staying. It doesn’t require we go back.

If Trump followers want to forgive and move on, that’s the work of their own hearts. And it’s a good work. Forgive away, because the world needs more of it. But please don’t be convinced that such work requires you support the continued work of the forgiven, especially when the forgiven person has made no indication of change. There’s no evidence that it will be different next time.

Visit me elsewhere:

Beyond a single story

Because I have no brothers, I have no means for comparison. Yet I was raised to believe that with enough hard work, passion and natural skill, there was little I could be turned away from in the world simply because I was born female. My parents never used any of these words; they raised me in a time and place where the common story was one where girls should and could have the same opportunity as the boys.

Even throughout my seminary years, studying in a predominantly white male world, I rarely came up against people who desired to put limitations on aspirations because of the way I was born. (Granted, I made it pretty easy by keeping aspirations low and quiet.) In fact, I came across two guys who legitimized and validated me beyond what was necessary, and I look back now with gratitude.  The primary voice in a place where I was in the minority was welcoming, validating my childhood story.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the story my parents and my educators had told me about what I could and couldn’t do wasn’t the universal story. There was an incident where I was told, outright, my femaleness that took me out of the pool of opportunity. It was in a place that I wanted to help – I could help. I had the hard work, the passion and the gifts. But, apparently, my vagina was a tad intimidating.

The hurt I felt wasn’t only in the rejection. It was also the startling fact that my prior life story wasn’t the only option. Soon, thanks to the world wide web and gutsy bloggers, I found out that I wasn’t alone. There were parts of the world where the hurt I experienced was the norm. This was the life experience of many women. Their mamas and daddies told them different things about their future based on how they were born.

I was appalled.  My friend KLR and I literally said, “Wait. This is still a thing? An issue?”  I had been raised in a time and a place that said, “well, sure, it used to be this way. But we’re better than that now. We know better and we do better. You have nothing to worry about. Now go on and make yourself the best.” But as a country, as a society, I found out as an adult that we’re not better. For many people, it’s not “used to.” It’s “should.”

The people who had validated me all along were also appalled. They hurt for and with me. But I believe they were shaken to realize their efforts of making society better hadn’t reached their full potential.

There is no single story for any gender, race or orientation. Just because you have an uncle, best friend or college professor who shared his or her experience – and came out just fine – doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is giving the same opportunity. Just because you’ve lived a particular life doesn’t mean life happens the same way for people who share the box you check on registration forms. It is so very, very important to listen to people who are quietly and politely trying to explain that what we perceive as normal is not, indeed, standard protocol.

I’ve been silently watching the eruption of reactions to the recent brutalities against both black men and white cops. It’s all terrible. (Please, world, stop believing we need to choose sides.)

A have a variety of friends who are, or will be, raising black or brown babies. I hear the fear in their response to the obvious inequalities. They’re going to have a different conversation with their children than I will with my blond boys. I empathize and agree, it should not be this way. But another thing irks me: somehow these white women saying the same thing that black mamas have been crying for years suddenly validates this experience to the white world.

Why? Why can’t we believe the black mamas when they say, here’s what I’m teaching my kid about how to dress and respond to a traffic stop. Why is the horror and injustice much more palpable to white ears when said by someone who looks like them?

I feel like this is part of the problem. Somehow this illustrates exactly what those crying for racial equality are trying to say.

It shouldn’t take “one of our own” to convince us that the experience of race, gender and orientation may not be the only story. Perhaps it’s our hopeful optimism that keeps us from hearing that our progress hasn’t reached as far was we believe. We want to think that we’ve done better as a society in seeing the divine spark in all human beings. And when stories inform us that we’re a tad disillusioned, we don’t want to hear it. The gap between what we believe to be and what actually is can be hugely disappointing.

But we need to keep listening. We need to allow the differing experiences of others to be more than a possibility and instead admit we need to put our work boots back on.

Visit me elsewhere:

How to Not Rape Someone

Clearly there are some folk in the world who need a step-by-step guide.

  1. When s/he says “stop”, then stop all sexual acts.
  2. If s/he cannot say “stop” because s/he is inebriated, confused, asleep, talking to a friend, or otherwise unable to respond to your request at the current moment, then don’t have sex* with her.
  3. If s/he is wearing clothes that turn you on / reveal the fun parts / remind you of a centerfold, but s/he says “no”, don’t presume you can have sex with her.
  4. If she is buck naked and says “sure” but then changes her mind and says stop, then stop. Immediately.
  5. If you “love her” and “want to spend the rest of your life with her” and “cannot live without her” and she says stop – or cannot say stop (see #2) – then stop.

No matter what she is wearing, or not wearing; no matter what her state of mind or conscious; no matter if she’s in the middle of Times Square on NYE or in your bed, her body was not created for you and your enjoyment. A person’s body is not a commodity or something to consume.  Her body is hers. She decides. Always.  If she is unable to decide, you do not get to decide for her.  It’s called consent. *If you do not have consent, it is called rape, no matter how intoxicated, rich, talented or horny you happen to be at the moment.

Again, for our list-driven audience.  The following are people who, while they may enjoy numerous privileges based on race and social class, still must adhere to these rules:

  1. Athletes
  2. Millionaires
  3. Politicians
  4. Law enforcement officials
  5. Clergy
  6. Drunk college students
  7. You

Someday, I hope to live in a world where I don’t have to write angry blog posts because people don’t treat women as dignified humans.

Visit me elsewhere:
Older posts

© 2017 Michele Minehart

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑