Where Is The Path to Forgiveness?

Co-authors Stasi and John Eldredge noted in the text Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul that, “Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner.”  I have been harboring ill feelings (unforgiveness) towards another human being for the past seven months.  Why?  You ask.  Because he was one more man on the growing list of many who have discarded my heart, love, and affections.  Recovering from the rejection and loss hasn’t been easy.  It’s never easy to bounce back from disappointment.  But it is true that time heals all wounds.  What I have learned is that some wounds take longer to heal.  To this day I am unable to watch one specific commercial because it reminds me too much of the last man who walked away from me.  Because I turn the channel or divert my attention each and every time that commercial comes on, simply proves that I haven’t completely forgiven this man.  I have backed myself into a corner and the only way I can get out is to forgive him.  But the truth is, I don’t know how to get onto the path of forgiveness.

The last man’s rejection left me feeling like the fourteen-year-old version of me.  Once again I was that girl searching for guidance from a father that wasn’t available—physically or emotionally.  Each time a man has chosen to leave, the pain of that initial rejection from my father resurfaces, and I once again question my self worth.  When my father divorced my mother he divorced himself from me too because our relationship hasn’t been the same ever since.  While we have made some headway over the years, the little girl that lives inside me wants her dad(dy) to be there to shield, rescue and comfort her from the harsh realities of life.

I remember vividly the moment when I knew my father wasn’t returning—not just from the trip he’d gone on—but to his family.  My family had recently returned from a three-week cross-country vacation in our motor home.  My older brother had just graduated from high school, and I was fourteen years old.  My father had left for Michigan (not sure if it was business or pleasure that time) and when he didn’t come back when he was expected, I knew that my nuclear family would be forever changed.  One night I awoke to odd sounds downstairs.  Slowly, I crept down the stairs to find my mother on the floor in the living room shredding—quite literally–my father’s hunting rifles.  Without making a sound I sat there on the steps for a few moments.  My mother must have been in a trance because she never noticed me, never heard me, never turned around, and never stopped hacking.  As she hacked away at the guns, I knew with all certainty that their marriage was in serious trouble.  When my father finally returned home a week or two later, he merely came to retrieve some personal items.  Just like that I had become a statistic.  I was one of those kids whose parents divorced.  I was one of those kids growing up without a father in the home.  Sure, he lived in the same city, just a few miles a way in fact, but from that moment forward our relationship was strained.  I was a girl without her father’s guidance.  I was a teenage girl who was clueless about navigating the interests of the male species.

I think I’ve spent the past twenty-something years running from the pain of being the statistic—the 50% of North American children whose parent’s divorce.  Along with that, I presume that I’ve subconsciously, and to some degree, consciously feared that every man who walks into my life will do the same thing my father did—unexpectedly leave.  It’s the classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Psychologists define this phenomenon as the process in which an individual’s expectations about another individual eventually lead the other individual to behave in the way that confirms their expectations.  This is to say that I expected every man who entered my life to also one day exit my life because they were men, just like my father, not capable and/or interested in maintaining their commitment.

I don’t want to be a closed flower or a caged bird.  I don’t want to be hard and calloused.  I don’t want to stop feeling.  But I do want to know love, security, protection, passion, and commitment.  I want the freedom to love without the fear of being rejected.  I want the freedom of being quirky.  I want the freedom to express myself without being misunderstood.  I simply desire to be free from other’s judgments.  I seek to live a life without regrets or condemnation.  I admit to making my fair share of mistakes.  I am far from perfect, and I’m okay with that.  I want to also be okay with life’s disappointments without them decimating me emotionally and psychologically.

I’ve come to realize that I’m that little girl who’s craving for her father’s attention.  I’m the same little girl who followed her father out into the garage or out into the yard.  I’m that same girl—only now a woman—seeking her father’s validation and love.  If my father had let me, I probably would have followed him everywhere.  It didn’t matter if he was tinkering with one of his motorcycles or playing with a turkey call, I wanted to be right there stealing away some of his love, time and attention.  Perhaps I’ve been doing the same thing all these years later.  Though every man has been different, the desire has remained the same—maintain the commitment and give me the attention and love I didn’t get from my father.

Today I’m asking God to heal my heart once and for all.  I’m asking God to give me all the love and attention that I lacked from my earthly father.  I undoubtedly love my earthly father, but have come to understand that we cannot go back in time to reclaim what has been lost.  I forgive him for his humanity and hope that he can do the same for me.  If there is one thing I have gleaned over the years, it is that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have obtained.

As I close, there are questions that I need God, The Father, to answer.  What is it that makes me special?  What do you see in me?  What makes me captivating?  When the answers to these questions are revealed, I am confident that the constant yearning in my heart will dissipate and a peace I’ve never known will fill me to overflowing.  And so I ask you dear reader, what question(s) do you need The Father to answer?

Perfection is a Fallacy

On Bishop T.D Jakes’s BET breakout show “Mind, Body, and Soul” a recent episode featured four successful black women.  These women were representative of the larger population of black women across the United States who have found themselves: successful, yet single.  In the midst of the conversation with these four women Bishop Jakes gave each woman a box.  I eagerly watched as they each opened their boxes to find a basic hand-held mirror inside.  I was moved by the “gift” as I had figured it would be a mirror as many of us—women in general–need to do some serious introspection.  No, I’m not clairvoyant, but it seemed like a fitting gesture given the movement of the conversation.  And while the mirror is symbolic of the journey that these women (and many others) have been, or will be embarking upon, what really grabbed my attention were the words that Bishop Jakes shared after the gifts were presented.  He went on to note, “Everything that you need to find the person that you seek will only be discovered when you look in the mirror.  When you find out who you are, you can really make the choice you need.  It’s not what you have, not what you own, not what you look like, but who you really are.”

Bishop Jakes’s words resonated with me because I’ve struggled to believe that the “treasure” I inherently carry inside of me has been enough—for my family, my friends, nor my romantic relational endeavors.  Over the course of my thirty-seven years of existence, I have doubted that my love, my passion, my dedication, my forgiving nature, my dogged-determination—AKA–my grit, has ever been enough to capture a man’s attention, let alone sustain it for the development of lasting love.  For too many years I discounted my worth and as a result I have self-sabotaged a few good relationships and wound up in far too many that should have never started.

Nevertheless, what moved me to tears was what the Bishop said after the aforementioned words, “Careers change, credit scores change, checking accounts change.  Because a person doesn’t have good credit doesn’t mean he’s not a good man”.  As the crowd chewed on that profound nugget of information, the proverbial light went off in my brain.  For as far back as I can recollect, I have desired to happen upon a man who’s “got it all together”.  I’ve been hoping to light upon the man whose credit isn’t as jacked up as mine.  I’ve been seeking the man whose spirituality is secure and unwavering.  I’ve been hoping and praying that God would send me someone, who unlike me, isn’t a work in progress.  And all the while I’ve been missing the lesson that was being taught.  NO ONE is perfect.  How unfair of me to want from another human being—something that I myself cannot even give.  The absurdity of my expectations in a mate had finally hit me upside the head with blunt force.

Bishop Jakes followed up that statement by saying that when we discredit potential mates based on their flaws (be they credit-related, spiritually-based, or otherwise) we “. . . may be ruling out champions in hiding”.  His words brought tears to my eyes.  Not because I felt sorry for myself–being a single unmarried woman with seemingly limited prospects for companionship, but because of the realization that I had passed over some “champions in hiding” over the course of my thirty-seven years of life.  Thinking back to my last relationship, the young man represented what I wanted on paper: he had great credit, he was gainfully employed and working to advance his career, he didn’t have any children, he was college educated, he was spiritually/religiously-minded, he was a gentleman and he courted me.  In all my years I had never been treated so wonderfully.  Here was a man who opened doors for me.  Here was a man who gave of his money freely.  Here was a man who prayed with and for me.  He was a modern day enigma among young black men.  However, while he presented well, in the end he broke my heart.  After fourteen months of courtship he dropped me like a bad habit and without a second thought.  And while there were seasons of bliss throughout those fourteen months of courtship, the fallout from the breakup left me emotionally decimated.  It has taken me months to regain my emotional composure.  But I can now say with confidence that I have gained insight from that heart-wrenching experience.

And what do I know now that I didn’t know nearly two years ago?  I know that a good man isn’t defined by his credit score.  I am however aware of the fact that a good man is defined by his level of sustainable commitment.  A good man doesn’t have to lavish you with dinners at nice restaurants; he can lavish you with his undivided attention.  A good man doesn’t have to walk through the doors of the church in a three-piece suit; he can and will come to God just as he is with a contrite heart and a desire to be a better man than the one he was the day before.

The most sincere and significant takeaway from Bishop Jakes’s show came when he stated that, “We have the tendency to want the other person to be a finished product, while you give yourself the grace to evolve.”  In an instant I had self-diagnosed my dysfunction.  My last string of relationships had been about being matched up with a man who was a “finished product”.  But in gaining the interest, attention, and affections (albeit inconsistent) of this type of man, I found that they lacked the heart, the grit, the gumption, and the level of commitment that defines the “ride or die” man that I yearn to grow old with.  With this new level of revelation I hope and pray that I can appreciate a “champion in hiding” if/when one such great man should enter my life.

Another one of Bishop Jakes’s salient points is that many of the items on a woman’s “laundry list” of desirables in a mate are really “conditions”.  And given the fact that conditions often change, it is unfair to judge a man’s potential on “conditions”.  We need to take note of each other’s character in order to determine if the people in our lives have the potential to build and develop—to grow old with us.  It is true that, “Marriage is about growing together, not growing apart.  You really can’t choose who you want if you don’t know who you are.”  I’ve been holding out for that ONE man who isn’t afraid of my bad credit, my bad judgment, my bad habits, my bad attitude, my bad choices, and even my bad hair days.  And only now am I able to own up to all of my faults and imperfections in a way that I wasn’t able to do in the past.  For years I hid behind my imperfections—physical, emotional, and spiritual.  And to some degree, my hiding behind the fault in my stars inhibited the development of a few potential love relationships.

So what do we—successful and single men and women–need to do?  We need to first take the time to get ourselves together.  I am often reminded of the Gospel classic, “Sweep around your own front door/before you try to sweep around mine.”  As cliché as it may appear, that song is a timeless classic.  By nature women are nurturers, but we need to nurture the little girls inside us.  And I think men need to nurture their ability to be providers—sustainers.  We need to love ourselves just as we are.  We need to own up to our faults and shortcomings without condemnation.  The Amplified Bible translation of Romans 8:1 notes, “Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.”  I do not believe we were given life to pursue this idea of perfection.  I earnestly believe we were given life to actualize our greater selves and to inspire one another to greater heights.

Furthermore, we need to begin to appreciate the other perfectly imperfect beings scattered across the globe.  The seemingly “finished product” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  S/He is an apparition.  I used to believe there was a small pool of good men left in the world.  There was a time in my life when I believed that all the good men had been scooped up in their late twenties and early thirties.  But my evolution has led me to believe that there are plenty of “champions in hiding” waiting on a good woman or a good man to allow them to step up to the plate, to rise to the occasion.  If we want a man/woman to appreciate our being perfectly imperfect, we need to extend the same to him/her.  We don’t have it all together.  Many of us are serious works in progress who want someone to appreciate our possibility of being more than.  After all, there is something wildly exciting about the prospect of journeying along someone’s personal evolution.  I imagine that it is the desire that drives many to procreate.

Finally, we need to extend some patience.  We’ve all heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither was any worthwhile relationship.  Relationships take time.  We need to take our time getting to know people.  While the idea of being matched up or boo’d up seems inviting, we can’t just jump into situations with people.  First of all, people have feelings and jumping in and out of relationships can wreak havoc on our emotions.  Secondly, when we slow things down we get to appreciate the individual we are standing next to—and vice versa.  It takes a lifetime to get to know someone and patience is certainly a helpful additive.  One of my favorite anonymous quotes states that, “Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait.”  In realizing that perfection is a fallacy, I have grown to appreciate that some things are worth that wait.  That being said, I’m no longer waiting for the perfect man to ride up on his steed.  I’m waiting for an opportunity to grow old with a “champion in hiding.”

Notable “Nuggets” from Bishop T.D. Jakes:

 1. “You can’t marry your paramedic.”

2. “The glue that holds people together is in the heart, not the head.”

3. “Relationships are real tough.”

 

And my question for you is this: Have you been overlooking a “champion in hiding”?