Sunday, September 23, 2012

Forgiveness: Making Peace With the Past

 Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Eta Xi Chapter, University of Georgia
Diversity Tenfold, Spring 1991
Front Row, from left: Shaleen, Ernita, Kerri, Octavia, Val
Back Row, from left: Denise, Althea, Jan, Ondra, Mary

On June 21, 2012, after driving 15 hours from Baltimore to Atlanta with 2 children in the car and washing my mid-back length locs even after said exhausting drive, complete with a queasy stomach, I had what you'd call a “moment.”  

I had come home to Atlanta to see my ailing maternal grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I’d also come to see my Line Sisters, most of whom I hadn’t seen since 1992. That is why I was queasy. Nervous as could be, to be honest. And in my vulnerable exhaustion, I flashed back to a would-be confrontation from 1991 in a sorority meeting between me and “Soror Georgia” (a pseudonym). Georgia was the self-appointed "Guardian of the Gate." If you didn't meet her standards, for whatever reason, be it your rep, weight, character, hair, sexual preference, image, she would try her best to break you. And this was after you pledged.

Soror Georgia had called me out, not by name, but by insinuation. In the moment, I wanted to drop my bookbag and purse, take off my earrings, leap high, real high, over seated sorors and proceed to beat that bitch with my shoe until she lay broken on the floor. Instead, I swallowed my emotions and walked out the door. That was not the only time me and Georgia had a run-in. I had 'disappointed' her, and trust me, girlfriend let me know it.

Twenty-one years later that moment came rushing back as if it had happened five minutes prior, complete with me delivering the ass-whoopin’ of my dreams. I spent the next hour having a one-way conversation (okay, screaming match) with a 21-year-old ghost. 
I realized a few things that night:
  • I had let one person ruin what should have been a beautiful sorority experience.
  • I had spent 20+ years avoiding most people from undergraduate school.
  • I had let an overall negative college experience deter me from maintaining a relationship with my Line Sisters, none of whom I had a beef with.
  • I'd written a novel based on my college life, but hadn't healed from any of it.
  • I needed to forgive others.
  • I needed to forgive myself.
As nervous as I was, I knew that seeing my Line Sisters again was the beginning of what I call “making peace with the past.”

 Back Row, from left: Ondra, Mary, Shaleen, Jan, Althea
Front Row, from left: Octavia, Val

I LOVED my reunion with 6 out of other 9 women. (Ernita is MIA like I was, Kerri lives in New England, and Denise was in Paris at the time with her family.) I had the BEST time. It was all love as everyone wanted to hear about what I’d been doing the past 20 years. I remember sitting in Val’s kitchen saying to myself, “What was I thinking? I missed out on their weddings, the birth of children, career changes, stuff only women understand….for what?”

When I came back home, I began the needed work of forgiveness. Now I’ve been actively, working on this daily for months. I did forgive the men and women with whom I was angry. But I also forgave myself. When you are pointing a finger at other people, three fingers are pointing back at you. The deeper the pain and betrayal, the greater the need to forgive.  

Here’s a mantra I’d got from watching Oprah’s Lifeclass earlier this year.  

“I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be. I forgive you and I set you free.” 

Toward myself, I tweaked it to read: 

“I forgive myself for not being the way I wanted to be. I forgive myself, and I set that behavior free.”

Forgiveness is not about condoning others behavior, nor justifying your own behavior. It’s about setting yourself free from pain so you can live out the highest vision of your life.
Coming up: Forgiveness, Making Peace with Past, Part 2



Serenity Love Sincere Peace Earth said...

Soror, you are better than I am. I do not forgive my college chapter and never will. And I'm okay with that. I see other people, especially my mother loving their affiliation. But I can't get that loving feeling no matter how I try. And if given the opportunity.... I will take a shot.

Althea said...

I feel your pain. I was sooooo there.

The moment I forgave, prior to seeing my sorors again, I physically felt that hurt leave my body.

You know that sound a bus making when it parks...that "whoosh" sound...I had that. I then said, out loud, "I've forgiven the whole damn thing." I got up from bed, called Ondra (Ivy #7) and said, "I'm ready." It took 19 years for me to get there, but get there I did.

To quote Shrek, "Forgiveness is like an onion. You have to peel back the layers one at a time." When it's time, it's time, no matter how long it takes.

Chad "Sir Wick" Hughes said...

Forgiveness is the only way to remove the hurt. I'm so proud of Althea and her accomplishments! May the Lord continue to bless!!


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