The Virtue of Forgiveness

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

I have heard this saying so much it’s practically ingrained in my brain. When you’ve been hurt, it can be challenging to forgive. Some people even say that most victims find it easier not to overlook. It’s human to be resentful and angry with those who have hurt us. Holding onto that pain and anger is like a security blanket. Sadly, that security blanket is a slow killer. To truly move past the pain, we must forgive.

Forgiveness is actively overcoming the feeling of resentment or revenge for the person who has done wrong actions. How and when you chose to forgive is relative. Some of us take longer than others to tap out of the negative emotions. Also, some people feel like one action is more unforgivable than another. Others may feel like forgiving that person may encourage the wrongdoer to be offensive repeatedly. There may be times where the transgression is so severe that it causes a person to think differently about someone, never being able to forget what they did to them.

Putting yourself in place to forgive is incredibly crucial to your psyche. It is never easy to forgive someone who has wronged you in some way. People don’t forget betrayal, but forgiveness is still mandatory. It is especially hard to forgive someone if what they have done has immensely hurt you emotionally or physically. Forgiving is not weak and doesn’t make you look like a doormat. This act symbolizes love for yourself.

If you are being forgiven for something you did, be sure to SHOW why you deserve forgiveness. Asking for and being bestowed mercy is just step one. Show how grateful you are for being forgiven by involving the forgiving party. Words are powerful, but actions say so much more. Holding back forgiveness leads to more pain for us than the offender, and the practice of forgiveness is not a one-shot deal; it is a life-long discipline.

Mental Health and the Black Community

The topic of mental health as it pertains to Black people is one that is rarely discussed. I needed to conduct some research prior to writing this to further educate myself on the matter. Over the years, I have had family and friends suffering from a mental illness that they weren’t aware of. It wasn’t always discussed openly amongst family. After perusing multiple articles, my eyes were opened to a bevy of information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Service, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic Whites. Life-altering events like the death of a loved one, illness; and “psycho-social” issues such as unemployment, crime in our communities, and racism just to name a few, contribute to psychological distress. With everything going on in our world today, just imagine how many of us are suffering mentally. A lot of us are suffering in silence because of how we were raised. In some cases, we don’t feel comfortable disclosing how we’re feeling because we don’t want to hear “just pray about it” or “you just need to man up”.

Everyday we’re losing people due to suicide because they don’t know what else to do. By not investing in our mental health and the mental health of those closest to us, we do ourselves a great disservice.  The topic of mental health in regards to Black people is so taboo and the stigma is damaging.

A piece in Ebony magazineA piece in Ebony magazine featured Simone Sneed, Director of Development and External Affairs for Inwood House. Sneed has also suffered from bipolar disorder. She considers herself “episode free, med-free and hospital free for over three years”. In the piece she credited her mother with investing in her mental health. What stood out to me was what she said about why the Black community approaches mental health the way we do:

“Historically, African Americans have normalized our own suffering. During slavery, mental illness often resulted in a more inhumane lifestyle including frequent beatings and abuse, which forced many slaves to hide their issues. Over time, strength became equated with survival and weakness (including mental illness) meant you might not survive.”

I have heard this before and it still makes me shiver when I think about it. What our ancestors endured all of those years ago has evolved into a self-harming way of thinking. As a strong and resilient people, we have to learn how to lean on each other more. Having a mental illness is not a weakness. If you or someone you know feels like they need to seek professional help, don’t take it lightly or be embarrassed. This is not a “White person’s disease”, it affects us all.  We are entitled to our feelings, good and bad. No one’s feelings are invalid. We must address this issue head on and end the stigma of mental illness.