I claim not ownership of another,
for in forgiveness lies dignity.
No longer do emotions betray
random slips of anger,
unwelcome notions of control;
no more thoughtless infidelity to one’s own weaknesses,
as innermost feelings, are carelessly exposed,
unknowingly laid bare and exploited,
clearly illustrated for the practiced, watchful eye;
to recognize petty motivations,
to take the most basic precautions,
to ignore the triggers and resist the bait,
and in so doing, handily disregard and easily dispose
of the toxicity upon which you desperately seek to thrive.
“I came out on Instagram,” She said. “Oh?” My casual reply to this type of admission within our household, especially from my thirteen year old daughter. Still, I had to pry a little further.
“No, No, Noooo…..” Chuckling now. “I posted that I was Atheist on my Bio.”
This didn’t surprise me. Hell, I had discovered by the age of six that, try as I might, I was incapable of belief in a higher power, but that I had better play along, not just to keep the adults in my life happy, but to avoid being awarded the title “Devil Worshipper” in the small Bible Belt community where I grew up. After all, I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday, I could recite The Lord’s Prayer, I knew the Ten Commandments, and I had even memorized Psalms 100 in return for an irresistible candy whistle. Still, as I sat in the plush green pews Sunday after Sunday in beautiful dresses, I realized I was a fraud by participation; I didn’t belong. The individual inside me that was awakening did not agree with the harsh world that was being taught within these walls. I approached my parents to confess in different ways over the years, but doubt is easily written off in the church as work of the devil. In the deep south, the devil is tangible; a real force that moves about causing mayhem and wrecking lives. Teenage rebellion and rock music. The wrong crowd. That’s what this is about.
I asked of the Instagram Bio, “So what happened?” She plopped down next to me, unconcerned at this point, and sighed, “I lost some followers but gained a looot of hate.” She cracked a smile. Ah yes, I smiled back. I remember those days.
“She would be a new person, she vowed. They said no matter how far a mule travels
it can never come back a horse, but she would show them all.”
She need not change, only to learn and grow. Simply transforming into a ‘new person’ neglects the years of struggle, hardship, and learning that come together to form the experiences that shape us. The very events that make us who we are. A small slight, the most unintended offense, may set in motion a path to confirming life’s worst negativity. For years we may search for confirmation that things are indeed just as bad as they seem. The confirmation that our fellow humans really are the loathsome, selfish, blithering idiots we suspected all along. Likewise, a small favor- a gentle kindness, a bit of knowledge shared, or, an open door, can lead to a different search for confirmation. It is with that search for positive confirmation that openness to different perspectives is possible. Learning is often uncomfortable. Learning challenges biases and breaks barriers. Learning opens doors once destined to remain closed.