This morning, while honoring Sabbath, I decided to listen to healing music that is rooted in love and forgiveness. After listening to a few music videos, I eventually landed upon a song by Zeritu Kebede titled “ Eza Alkerehum” (see video below) which means “I have not stayed there” in Amharic. I have always loved the depth of this song but today the message hit me even harder. Zeritu was singing about others forgiving us but really she was talking about forgiving ourselves.
We live in a cruel world where people weaponize every mistake and leverage setbacks to for personal gains while inflicting pains on others. During these times of betrayal and abandonment, the worst mistake we can make is to become either vindictive or be regretful. Yet it happens all the time as people lash out and hurt others or lash in and hurt themselves. What is needed the most is forgiveness and to rise to our better angels instead of letting the devil misdirect us towards the dead-end of pride.
I am not being pious, it is only natural to be pissed off at the world when we have been wronged, but seeking vengeance is the best way to remain a victim once we have become victimized by others. So I dedicate this day to giving grace and pray to God that He cleanses my heart of the toxin that is bitterness. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive others as they are actively transgressing against us. Even harder is to forgive ourselves because doing the opposite eventually manifests by the pains we inflict upon others or ourselves.
Like Zeritu sings, we are not our mistakes, which is easy enough to understand. Here is the harder part, people who are hurting us are not their mistakes either. There is a spiritual battle taking throughout the world that is being projected on social media and seeping into our souls. It’s as though acrimony has replaced civility as people bash each other the way we used to say hello not too long ago. Everyone feels justified in pushing back not realizing the determination to get the last word is adding logs to the fire that is roasting humanity.
Compassion is what we desperately need, especially towards those people who are going out of their way to hurt us. When people are hurting, they do their best to hurt others because there is nothing that misery desires more than company. Alas there is a vast chasm between knowledge that is captured in our minds and wisdom that is understood in our hearts. It’s easier to climb Mt. Everest with our bear hands than it is to turn the other cheek when we are being slapped by the indifference or enmity of others. This is twice as true when the contempt is being committed by those closest to us.
But like Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I choose love because hate is too great a burden to bear”. I know firsthand the dangers of wrath even when we are clearly being wronged. I would still be homeless to this day if I remained stuck on the cul-de-sacs of getting the last word and proving myself right. I spent a year doing exactly that only to sink further into the abyss of poverty and hopelessness. The picture on the left above was me while I was living in a homeless shelter in Colorado, the picture on the right is what happened when I became grateful and relinquished resentment from my heart.
To that end, to the one who is going out of the way to hurt me, though I am not ready to forgive, I will no longer engage in your antics. There are some battles not worth fighting because the end result is defeat no matter who comes out on top. Just know that you are hurting yourself as much as you are hurting me, ego is preventing you from seeing that but it is not my place to teach you that because that is your journey to walk. As for what was taken from me through chicanery, as much as it pains at my heart, I have faith in an awesome God who will right all wrongs. Besides, the treasures that come from us are not ours, they are God’s and I trust He knows best when it comes to shepherding his lambs.
There is a purpose to all things so I will stop the back and forth and just have faith that God’s justice will be delivered in time. I have traveled a long road, a big part of the reason I went from making six figures at Booz Allen Hamilton to homeless seven years ago was because I kept reacting in anger when people I helped and loved hurt me. It took the biggest act of betrayal for me to finally learn to love myself so that I don’t invite people who take my kindness for weakness into my temple. Tomorrow morning, I will travel to the church where my son was baptized to pray so that these words that I wrote in this article drip from my mind into my heart. I have faith the void in my heart will be filled in God’s time even if I the only thing that greets me when I arrive will be memories.
I give this advice to the reader and especially the author, when the devil knocks at your door, do not entertain his evils but turn to God and seek goodness. I witnessed countless people, the vast majority men, who were so broken by egregious actions someone committed against that they they condemned themselves to a life of penury and loneliness. We can’t control the actions of others, what we can control is what we do in reaction. Instead of gazing at rage, I turn my eyes to being productive. I have to weight to lose, a Congressional campaign to run and a future to build for my child, I will not give my hand to vanity.
I pray for healing through all this, the turmoil that I am enduring is not unique to me but one that is roiling countless people and households. I will spend the rest of today resting, honoring God and reflecting on the tribulations that Job endured. I finally understand that the devil is actually part of God’s plan, the fires he sets at our feet are actually clearing paths for us to arrive at healing and attain our purpose. We have a choice when the infernos come for us, forgive ourselves and others as Zeritu sings about which leads to renewal or seek retribution which imprisons us to the hell of our egos. I choose the former for the sake of my soul and for the love of my son. Amen.
“Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.” ~ Psalm 65:3
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