We can choose to move on right now by applying what we have learned to the present and perhaps even sharing with others, transforming that energy into something that is constructive and creative for ourselves and others. We’ve heard time and time again that forgiveness is the key to “letting go,” and forming a new basis for the future. Forgiveness lets the hurt go and frees us to move on with our own lives. Forgiveness is commanded by God. We have a spiritual mandate to “return good for evil.”
Sometimes I wonder about things like “forgiveness” being a release of some kind. It sounds like a sudden brainstorm that someone came up with and everyone else caught on to and repeated like a broken record. Things like “when God closes a door, He always opens up a window,” or “you don’t burn bridges to keep from crossing back over, you leave them there for someone else to cross over.” Sounds handy to the ear, but in reality, the Bible actually says nothing of the kind. A closed door is a closed door, and oftentimes in a building with no windows. Someone crossing a bridge you’ve already been over, if that bridge was nothing but trouble, actually is a bridge you don’t want to leave hanging around. Why should someone else be tormented as you were when you went so far as to burn it?
By the same refreshing token, it often appears that the best way to “forgive” someone is to make certain they get what’s coming to them. Then it’s forgiven; and forgotten. The Bible says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and we often use this scripture to think in terms of being victims or allowing ourselves to be victimized. However, I tend to believe it’s meant for the person who offends to understand that if they do evil, they should expect that evil to be returned in ways they haven’t thought of at the moment that they do their ugly deed(s).
The fact is that others often ‘do unto us’ and walk away unscathed, never having any fear of God’s retribution. Moreover, we often forget that we can’t go running to God every time something goes wrong in our lives. We can pray about it until the sun ceases to shine, but many of the issues that we deal with are there for us to deal with appropriately, and in due season. Two wrongs don’t make a right; but one wrong is enough for the one who does wrong to understand what they did wrong and that they are never to do it again. Not next week; but today. Tyler Perry’s Madea character, modeled after his own real-life grandmother, had the appropriate response in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Sometimes we get into situations where we wonder if “revenge” is the right thing to do. We often forget that revenge is malice aforethought about an old situation; most folk who do wrong need to “get got” right where they stand.
We can’t afford to let a wrong or a slight get so far as to think (or dwell) on how to take revenge later. The best and most appropriate place to deal with an issue is the moment it happens, not months or weeks or even years down the road. That way, it doesn’t become a “past regret” and that should be the end of it. Any other road leads to a feeling of victimization over a slight or a hurt or a devastating emotional injury; as if others can do us wrong-no matter how many people we treat right-and just walk, or get away, with it. Then we say things like “every dog has its day,” or “they’ll get theirs one day.” But we often still feel like victims at the end of the day. We are not victims, ever; we just let someone get away with something that we shouldn’t have.
If we are the offending party, then there is absolutely a need to ask for forgiveness even from those unwilling to give it. The Bible, in the words of Jesus, says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If ‘you’ do something that hurts or offends another person, then expect that wrong to be returned in some form. If you have asked for forgiveness and it’s not forthcoming, then you are done; but your wrong may never be forgotten—revenge could be forthcoming as a follow-through. If we do not ask for forgiveness when we have harmed someone, the door is wide open for the return, which should be no less than what was earned. Either way, the consequences of harming someone should be thought out ahead of time, not when it’s too late.
Though I have no personal belief in any form of magic, white or black, there are people who believe they can cast spells on other folk. In the world of black magic, however, those who go that route are often cautioned about spell-casting. The words of caution are, “It can boomerang on you.” In other words, we can choose to harm or hurt someone out of plain spite or revenge; but the path is then cleared for it to come back into our own house.
We can choose to transform our lives into something creative and constructive for others by never letting a wrong or hurt get two feet or more than three days past us. Straighten the matter out on impact and take back control back of your life. In Jesus’ examples as shown in the Bible, the only time He didn’t answer someone, or at least give them an ‘example’ of the consequences of their actions, is when He knew that what they did or said was totally meaningless on the grand scale. It wasn’t going to change His life or His destiny, so there was nothing more to say.
This is what Tiger Woods meant, most recently, when he said that Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman’s comments (that he be ‘lynched in a back alley’) were “a complete non-issue.” Most say it’s because he doesn’t consider himself black, so he didn’t get the connection. However, I agree with Tiger on another level. She can say what she wants, but her blood guilt lies within herself. No one should be shocked at the words that will boomerang back, at some point, in her own life. She spoke them out of the abundance of her own inner jealousy and hatred, and she will see them again—hopefully in a back alley. We often wonder why certain things happen to people, but almost never think that some things are a matter of consequence for prior actions that we can’t possibly know of. Matthew 12:37, “By thy words thou art justified; and by thy words, thou art condemned.” Never forget: YOU are the prize. No one can beat you unless you let them.
If the situation we encounter in our personal lives is still ‘bugging’ us days later, the best way to take control of it is to confront the offending party dead on while it’s still fresh. That way it doesn’t become the past, it never gets to the point of ‘regret’, and there’s nothing there to forgive [or forget] later. This is how Oprah chose to deal with Rachael Ray’s comments about the studio photograph of her with the “slave whip marks” on her back. No matter that it was rumored that Ray uttered the words while in a drunken stupor. They ‘discussed’ it in private, immediately; and Oprah, I’m certain, is never going to have to deal with her on that issue again. I learned this lesson the hard way, after many years of allowing myself to be victimized by others and becoming my own self-fulfilling prophecy of hurt and pain.
There’s almost an iron-clad bona fide guarantee that you won’t ever see that same thing again, but only if the house (the temple) is cleansed and re-filled, renewed, with that which is good by meditating on the Word of God; and by becoming a student of the good things that He put in this world to delight us and to succor our souls. Deal with the situation rather than allowing feelings or emotions to vegetate and ferment and become a place of regret. The only time a hateful act is not allowed to become “the past” is when there is nothing left of it to hold on to. That calls for immediate action now, not revenge later.
- Columnist (The Hearts of Black Folk) and Author Rev. S. R. (Renee) Greene is the founder of Open Book Ministries, a social ministry targeted at helping to reduce the rate of recidivism in America and to helping Black Americans learn and understand the power of a KISS (“keeping it short & sweet”) in the language arts. She can be reached through www.openbookministries.com. Her recent book release, “In My Skin,” is the story of her experiences with common black folk while living in the deep south and “overcoming” in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement.