One of my dearest and oldest friends grew up in a home where she was verbally abused and emotionally neglected by her father. Though her father never laid his hands on her, I don’t think she has even received a spanking in her life, the words that he used against her over the years affected her negatively for such a long time. For years, my friend – let’s call her Hannah – acted out of the hurt that she endured in her childhood. Hannah engaged in inappropriate relationships with men, seeking the validation that she never received from her father. And although she was extremely smart and beautiful, she never saw that for herself and was driven by extreme insecurity, and at times, self-hatred.
But then one day, Hannah came to know the Lord and started going to counseling. The combination of her faith and determination in turning her life made all of the difference in the world, believe you me. Speaking as someone who has known Hannah for more than 20 years or so, I can say that the person she is today is hardly comparable to the person that I knew even five years ago! This is not to say that she is perfect, or that all of the memories of her dark past are gone. No, she still struggles from time to time. However, she no longer allows those memories to define her life or dictate what her future should be. She has set boundaries with those around her, cultivated good dating habits, and is even in a healthy dating relationship with marriage on the horizon.
Hannah’s father is also a changed man. For some reason, call it guilt, growth, or whatever else, he no longer treats Hannah the same way that he once did. And Hannah recognizes that and is grateful for the change. Even so, he has never apologized for the way that he treated her. In fact, he often denies that he did anything wrong and blames her for whatever life decisions she made in response to his supposed actions. Yet he wants to be close. Is such reconciliation possible the way things currently stand?
I believe that forgiveness is possible. It is even necessary! But reconciliation? Such is not achievable until there is a confession of sin and a commitment to a new set of behaviors that will guarantee the safety of the relationship in the future. Look at the model that Christ prescribed for us in our relationship with Him as proof. Although his death and resurrection make our reconciliation with God possible, repentance is still required of us. In repenting, we not only admit that we have sinned against God, but we commit to adopting new behaviors that will please Him. If such a process is true in our relationship with God, how much more is this needed in our relationships with one another?
This process is definitely needed concerning race relations in the United States. When we think about the exploitation of American Indians, the enslavement of African Americans, and the ongoing discrimination of most people of color, something needs to be done. While it can be argued that the offenses of the past are no longer being perpetrated to the extent that they once were (slavery and colonization), let the reader be clear that they still exist albeit in different forms. These are manifested in the disparities that American Indians, people of color and immigrants of color bear at disproportionate rates. How can we just move on and forget, or play nice, or get along for getting along sake, when true repentance has never taken place? Like Hannah, we can forgive as it is necessary for the sake of our own souls. But a deep, fundamental change needs to take place in order for true reconciliation to occur.
Now here is the million dollar question – how do we go about it? Watch out for my next post to find out!