Welcome to my first ever blog! I created the Pain2Play blog site to discuss the topic of emotional health. A year and a half ago, God launched me on a healing journey in this area. It has not been easy, but it has been very rewarding. Emotional health impacts every area of our life. It also has a huge impact on how we function as a society. Today I am going to discuss emotional health in the context of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Regardless of your current feelings about the BLM movement, I encourage you to consider what I am going to share. For those of you with negative sentiments, I can understand why. The images of destroyed buildings and portions of cities being overrun are very disturbing. It is easy to stop there, make a judgment, and not go any further. I get it. But if you stop there, you are missing an opportunity of historic proportions. I will admit, I have an added incentive to go deeper. I am trying my best to lead a bi-racial family. I do not want to be quick to dismiss anything. I have recently had the opportunity to have extended conversations with two black men I deeply respect. They are both devout Christians, and both serve in ministry. Neither of them are even remotely close to the radical left that has come to be associated with the BLM movement. From them both, I learned about their life experiences as black men and their encounters with prejudice and racism. One of them shared with me an experience he had when he first moved to the area where the church that he leads is located. He was pulled over repeatedly for no apparent reason, and on one of these occasions, he had to have someone verify that he really was a pastor because apparently, he was in an area that an ordinary black man should not be. He also shared about the racial division in the church and how uncommon it was for a white person to sit under a black pastor. I could tell that this was a source of pain for him. From the other, I learned about the fear that he faces when his son is out on the road by himself. As parents, we all face fears connected with our children, but his fear was specifically connected to the fact that his son was black. What happens if he encounters a white supremacist? What happens if he is pulled over by a racist police officer? They also shared other stories, and it enabled me to see into their world. It also helped me recall my families own brushes with racism. Several years ago, my wife was having a conversation with a woman about her daughter’s homecoming. She shared that her daughter wanted to attend with a black student from her school. She told her she was not in favor of that because she did want to hang a picture of her daughter and black boy on her wall. She told her daughter she needed to find a new date. The truly ironic thing is that this woman knew we had just adopted a little girl from Haiti. To deny the existence of prejudice and racism is absurd. I recently saw a survey about the change in attitudes toward interracial marriage over time. In the 1960s, as I recall, less than 10% of those surveyed were in favor of interracial marriage. When this same survey was conducted recently, that number had grown to 87%. This is a wonderful sign that we are moving in the right direction. However, it still means that in a room of 100 people, there are 13 that hold some deep-seated racist sentiments. I also believe that many have prejudice and racists belief systems that operate on a subconscious level. In many cases, these are generational beliefs, strongholds if you will, that need to be brought into the light so that they can be dismantled.
I truly believe we live in the greatest country on this earth, but that certainly does not mean that we are perfect. Racism, past and present, has inflicted great pain. When people are hurting, they do not always think clearly and can be easily manipulated. There is no doubt that this is happening in our country. People and organizations (on the left and the right) are using this as an opportunity to advance their agendas by exploiting the pain of others. Perhaps this is easier for the people who are not hurting to see, but if all you can see are these evil agendas you are missing the opportunity of a lifetime! God is not the author of confusion, but from confusion, He brings clarity and purpose. God is using the current events in our country to bring racial reconciliation on a level that likely goes beyond anything we can grasp.
So how do we get in alignment with God’s agenda? I am glad you asked! The best advice I can give is to encourage you to reach out to people of other races and ask them to share their experiences. You may never truly be able to understand what it feels like to be thought of as inferior because of the color of your skin. However, the result of racism is pain. Pain is a shared part of the human experience and is an inescapable part of living on planet earth. You may have never experienced the pain of racism, but you have certainly experienced pain. You know what it is to hurt emotionally and physically. This gives you the ability to empathize and share in the suffering of others. This is precisely what Christ did for us. He stepped out of glory to suffer with us and for us. Following in His footsteps, we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. To reconcile means to cause to exist in harmony; to make or show to be compatible. Could it be that God is calling us in this hour to participate with Him in His grand plan to bring harmony to the races and to reveal to the world that they are perfectly equal and compatible?
In this process, it is important to distinguish between empathy and sympathy. Empathy says I feel sorry WITH you, sympathy says I feel sorry FOR you. Do you see the difference? Empathy looks at a person as though they are your equal. Sympathy comes from a place of superiority and is connected to pity. No one needs your pity or your guilt offerings. You may think I am making too much of a distinction between these two words, but I can assure you I am not. I am also not trying to say this in a shaming way. I am well familiar with feeling sympathy toward others and trying to help them. It has led to a lot of bad decisions. Empathy, on the other hand, produces as a by-product: compassion. Compassion is the healing balm of heaven. Jesus was moved with compassion and He healed…
Does this mean that we are to be supportive of violent or criminal behavior… of course not. But it does mean that we are to recognize that people are not their behaviors. Behind the behavior is a person, and that person is hurting. Burning down buildings, tearing down statues, and throwing bricks will do nothing to comfort the pain in a person’s heart. Only love can do that. Love originates from God, and His primary delivery mechanisms are His image-bearers. That would be you and me. It is a high calling. In fact, it is the greatest calling of our lives. Do not let the ugliness of this moment in history prevent you from seeing and engaging in God’s plan to bring racial reconciliation on the earth. I recently heard a powerful message centered around Acts 17:26, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before the appointed, and the bounds of their dwellings……” NKJV. We truly are all one blood. We all have far more in common than we do differences. Let this be a time in history when we grow to realize this in an ever-increasing measure!