When I watch the news, read my news feed, read the comments on social media fear crosses my heart with icy feet. I’m not only afraid for me, but anyone that looks like me, especially my daughter. As much as society tells me that I have to love myself first before anyone else will and to be comfortable in the skin I’m in, I can’t help thinking that these messages of validation and valuation aren’t for me. As much as I try to stay positive and not go there, I cannot ignore the glaring fact that some people will not like me and even hate me. Beyond a strong dislike or hate, what fuels my fear is that because of my outer appearance or my past some choose to use their power of influence to deny me the same freedom to enjoy the comforts of life that they do without thought or barriers. Can I LIVE?
When someone is viewed as part of a hurtful group, usually that person has a chance to apologize and be understood. So the comments I see that are defensive and dismissive don’t help the situation. However when a person is condemned, it’s a death sentence. When a house gets condemned doesn’t it get boarded up and eventually torn down? Once you’re condemned, it is assumed that you are who you are and there’s no redeeming value in you. That’s pretty harsh.
Truth be told, first impressions do matter and unfortunately I don’t always get to make the first impression for myself. Perception and opinion could make or break my opportunities in this world. How would you feel if you did not get to choose which person someone else has experienced, heard about, seen or learned about that you get labeled and treated as? Doesn’t sound fair right? Well it happens. And it happens more often than we’d care to admit or experience because the experience has proven to be not only bad, detrimental, but deadly.
When someone looks at me they see –
I am black. Even with my light-skin, I’m still black. Over the course of my life I’ve heard a random angry driver yell, “I hate light-skinned people!” Or a conversation between my supervisor and an out-of-town guest, “They’re not all like that.” Or been told that someone didn’t like me because, “I think I’m cute.” Sometimes I wonder if my dreadlocks make some people think and act some type of way towards me? And then there’s my fear of the influence power of the white woman. I don’t think anyone could express my fear of their influence power better than Katherine Stockett did in her book, The Help. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt an awareness that their words and opinions carry more weight than mine and have possibly hurt my earning power and adversely affected decisions made regarding my career all because of their, possibly subconscious, cultural bias towards my differing hue. <See. I’m guilty of making assumptions and labeling too.> Can I LIVE?
I am a woman. I know that I’m physically weaker than most males I encounter. So I’ve got to be cautious. There have been times when I did not feel safe because of the men in my life. Like the time I was my most vulnerable, naked and in the arms of someone I thought loved me when he spat in my face and said, “B*tch! You’re mine. I can do whatever I want to you!” Or the time I fled to my room and locked the door only to have it kicked in and to be stood over by someone yelling orders… I was in survival mode. It was fight or flight. So to see a woman who looked like me being ordered to move while her exit was being blocked by a man, already more physically powerful, with a badge and a gun I felt some type of way. Can I LIVE?
I am a single mother. Regardless of how I got in this position, I’m in it. However, when I have gone about seeking positive and enriching activities for my daughter I have often been isolated by married couples who are doing the same thing for their children. I can only imagine the reasons, but …Can I LIVE?
I am human. There are people who don’t speak to me and some treat me with hostility for something that I did almost twenty years ago. They believe they’re acting in obedience to God. Meanwhile it is none of their business. I’ve repented to God directly and moved on. Can I LIVE?
I could go on with the various labels I wear that could possibly cause me to be viewed negatively due to stereotypes and assumptions, but I think I’ve made my point. Underneath all of the labels anyone may apply to me, I’m just like any other average human being. I want to not just survive, but thrive in life. I have and will make some mistakes, but rather than be condemned and consumed by them, I need the same unconditional encouragement that others get without asking, to be understood and to be lifted up. So there’s one more label that gives me hope…
Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah? – John 4:29
I am a Christian. I can have hope, because God already knows everything about me and loves me anyway. I currently have the opportunity to do a deep study of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman. Jesus saw the woman at the well and knew all about her, yet he did not condemn her for her past or her present. She was a different race, worshiped differently, and lived an immoral lifestyle. Counter to his earthly culture, which hated her people –
He acknowledged her – spoke to her, engaging her in conversation
He empowered her – asking her for water letting her know she had something of value to offer
He enlightened her – helped her see beyond her physical limitations the limitless spiritual power available to her, what true worship means and revealed his identity…because she asked
He inspired her – to share with all she knew what was revealed to her without the shame of her reputation
… He offered her eternal life. He offered her something more instead of less; hope instead of condemnation. How beautiful would life be if we all adopted Jesus’ character and treated others this way?
This is why I am able to LIVE in the skin I’m in with peace and joy. Yes. I hate that I have to consider that some people just won’t like me, could cause me harm and that their dislike has nothing to do with my character but everything to do with my exterior. However, I choose not to dwell on the hatred witnessed and felt. I choose not to let that change my love for people, dampen my joy or dull my zest for life. He says I can live and live life more abundantly, if I choose him. The spirit of fear is not from God. With his power and love at work in me I can push past this and live without fear.
One day at a time… ❤