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Can Forgiveness Bring Healing During Civil Unrest?

Forgiveness must be part of the process if we hope to achieve any level of healing in rebuilding and reconstructing our country. The process of forgiveness has played a positive role in history when it comes to conflict resolution and we are currently in a world of conflict more than ever. Living with COVID-19, the downfall of our economy, civil unrest, and race relations at an all time low, tempers and temperatures are running high. When the President of the United States can stand on the global stage and tell white extremists to, “stand back and stand by,” instead of outright condemning their actions, this pushes America further back. Generations of sacrifice, hard work, and progress continues to unravel.

American Novelist, James Baldwin said, “When any white man in the world picks up a gun and says; give me liberty or give me death, the entire white world applauds. But when a Black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judged as a criminal, (by whites) and treated as one. And everything possible is done to make an example of him to ensure there would not be any more like him." He went on to also say, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” We are a conscious people so you can imagine the rage that lays right under the surface constantly. We must figure out how we can achieve justice, peace, and healing. Forgiveness will have to be part of the answer.

So, what are we going to do about it? How do we extend forgiveness when it is something that we either do not understand or do not want to extend to someone who has offended or hurt us? Where do we begin when we feel that justice has not been served? For instance, the pain we still feel behind the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor. Forgiveness has power and when we learn to forgive others, and sometimes even ourselves, the healing process can help start to heal open wounds and create a new beginning. If we want hope for future generations, we must figure out how to rebuild and start anew. Sometimes we may have to learn to release and let some things go. We may never receive complete restitution on some matters, so it is important for us to learn how to keep going and growing through the process. Sometimes the justice we seek will only be realized by future generations because of our sacrifice and the power of the vote.

There are those that have shown us the healing power of forgiveness towards individuals, as well as in the rebuilding of a nation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leading expert on forgiveness, shares in his book, “No Future Without Forgiveness,” about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission exposed the atrocities that were committed and the process they had to go through to get to the other side. Forgiveness is hard work, but very necessary for the healing process for civil unrest.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu, together wrote, “The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.” They share four steps that are critical; (1) telling the story; (2) naming the hurt; (3) granting forgiveness; and (4) renewing or releasing the relationship. We tend to stay in a state of unrest when we do not see a path for hope or resolve. Forgiveness can bring healing during our times of civil unrest. Maybe we need to think about establishing a “Commission?” Hate cannot survive where love and forgiveness abide, but we have to begin the process.


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