Advent Week 3: Love & don’t make assumptions
Welcome to week 3 of our Advent Series as we look at the 4 Agreements and the advent themes, looking for the lessons and messages they have for us. And we can find those messages everywhere; sometimes where we least expect it.
Asked to tell the Christmas story in their own words, a group of fifth graders at Rev. Kurt Condras’ church pretty much shared the basic version we all know from hymns and pageants: Joseph and Mary, a donkey, angels, star, stable, kings, shepherds, and, of course, baby Jesus.
As they talked about each character, one student noted that under normal conditions kings and shepherds would never hang out.
What that means for us, they said, is that from his birth, Jesus taught that we should love everyone: black, brown, or white; rich or poor; cool or nerdy; gay, straight, or questioning; Democrat or Republican.
At our core, they said, “We are one in God’s love.” It’s a view of unconditional love that defines Christ consciousness quite succinctly …
There is an incredible sense of power and freedom in both giving and receiving love without condition or expectation. The experience can be so profound that we lose track of whether we’re the giver or receiver …
This is called “Love without Assumptions”
And that is our third week in Advent; our third agreement, “Don’t Make Assumptions.”
Love – true love – is assumption free – and that when we lose those assumptions, we lose judgment and discover a deeper love – the Love Jesus taught, unconditional love.
“Love is who we are, and no season can contain it,” Sara Bareilles affirms in her song “Love Is Christmas.”
It’s true about each of us, and everyone else too.
Making assumptions is dangerous because we often have no idea what is really going on in a situation. Almost everything we tell ourselves is an assumption.
Think about that for a minute…everything you tell yourself, and that’s a lot, is an assumption.
Humans have a need to explain and justify everything; we have a need for knowledge, and we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know. We don’t care whether the knowledge is true or not. Truth or fiction, 100 percent of what we believe, we think is true and we go on believing it, because just having knowledge makes us feel safe.
And that statement right there explains a lot about what has been happening through this ‘interesting’ year.
Let’s say it again…
We fill in the blanks in our minds with information, and then we’re pretty convinced we know what’s going on. Spoiler alert: We don’t. We’re prone to mistaken beliefs and acting on these mistakes will cause more trouble.
This is a hard agreement to follow because we make assumptions so often, and making assumptions comes so naturally. We’re usually impressed with our own insight. We think our assumptions are true.
It’s like last week when were we discussed “Don’t take things personally” our ego can get in the way of what we think of the world that surrounds us, so we think our assumptions are correct.
And how can we make an assumption about love? Have YOU made an assumption about love?
That could be dangerous for both persons. Some unpleasant things can happen and assuming can often lead to conflict.
Think about the last misunderstanding you had with a loved one…how did it start? Be honest…’be impeccable with your words’…. was it an assumption either of you had about the other?
Assumptions => Misunderstanding => We’re offended and take it personally => We lash back => Big drama ensues
Making assumptions and taking things personally (agreements two and three) go hand in hand, leading to gossip, conflict, and suffering.
What’s the biggest assumption of all? We think everyone sees life exactly as we do. In fact, everyone sees the world through their own unique way. If you don’t communicate with someone else about how each of you is seeing the world, you create misunderstanding.
This chaos in our minds, leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. We simply don’t perceive things the way they truly are.
- Here’s an example: You’re at the mall. Someone you know and like gives you a warm smile from a distance. You decide she likes you. Loves you! You’re going to be so happy together. You create a fantasy, a story that likely has no semblance of reality. You set yourself up for disappointment, embarrassment, or heartache. You potentially put that person in an awkward position. All from an innocent smile.
- Assumptions are particularly dangerous in relationships. We must be clear in communicating what we want because no one knows what we’re thinking.
- Example: You and your partner agree that you’re in a relationship. But if you two have different ideas about what it means to be in a relationship and don’t clarify the issues, anger, and hurt feelings ensues. You fail to meet each other’s expectations.
- We often go into relationships with blinders on, seeing what we want to see. We make dangerous assumptions such as “My love will change him or her.” (Of course, there are certainly no guarantees that anyone will change. Real love accepts others the way they are without wanting to change them. And remember, we can’t change another, they must want to change.)
The danger isn’t only in making assumptions about others. We make assumptions about ourselves. We underestimate or overestimate ourselves, leading to disappointment, self-doubt, and recriminations.
How Do We Stop Making Assumptions? Communication and Clarification
You stop making assumptions and jumping to conclusions by asking questions!
Have the courage to seek the truth. If you know the truth, you don’t need to make assumptions. And if you don’t make assumptions, you don’t make mistakes.
- Here’s an example: You’re convinced you didn’t get the promotion you’ve been working toward. Your coworker went to lunch with the boss. Surely that means she got the job! Or so you assume. You get anxious and stressed.
- Solution: Don’t make assumptions. Ask if the promotion has been decided already. Find out what you need to do to receive the promotion. Have regular meetings with your boss and be clear about your desires and ambitions. Don’t overanalyze tiny signals that may not mean anything. Focus your energy on finding out what the truth is.
Be comfortable asking questions you’re afraid might be too simple, like “why do you feel that way?” “What motivated you to do that?” “What would you do in my situation?”
Or my favorite “Tell me more…”
Remember: there are no bad questions.
If you ask these questions in the right tone, which is especially important, they are fantastic questions to get rid of assumptions on both sides.
To stop making assumptions we must:
- First understand how important this agreement is and how assumptions lead to misunderstandings.
- Become aware of our tendency to make assumptions. We can’t change what we’re not aware of.
- Ask questions. Learn the facts about a situation.
- Communicate. You won’t have to make assumptions if everyone’s on the same page.
- Take action. Forge a new habit of NOT assuming and seeking the truth instead. Do this over and over, establishing a solid foundation.
When we stop making assumptions, we take the blinders off. We understand what is truly happening in our lives. We are on the same page as our spouse, children, friends, etc., with honesty and open communication. We’re less likely to be blindsided by unpleasant truths because we already have a clear understanding of a situation.
Be aware of the stories you are telling yourself. They are filled with assumptions. We let our wonderful imaginations go on a roll and before you know it, you have convinced yourself that something is perfect and it will happen or the person you have been day- dreaming about is out of your league, when in reality, she or he has been dreaming about you too.
ASK SOME QUESTIONS!
There are so many things that the mind cannot explain; we have all these questions that need answers. But instead of asking questions when we don’t know something, we make all sorts of assumptions. If we just ask questions, we won’t have to make assumptions. It’s always better to ask and be clear.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. And love will be part of our life.
GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!
And peace be with you. Let’s light the Advent candles – for Hope and for Peace.
We are into week #2 of Advent which is focused on Peace. As we explore the second agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally, we discover that that is an important key to living in peace. If this message is for us, how might it impact our lives in this season of Advent and beyond?
Think about that for a minute…
WOW! If we could just keep in mind that everything isn’t always about us. Our egos would like to think that that was so, but come on, do we REALLY think we are the center of the universe and everything revolves around us???
Well, I personally know a few folks who actually DID think that everything revolved around them. But they are no longer a part of my world. And I wish them peace.
The Hebrew word for peace: shalom, occurs over 250 times in the Hebrew Bible and over the centuries religious scholars have spilled plenty of ink reflecting on its complex meaning.
In English, the word peace tends to mean something like “the lack of war or conflict.” And while the biblical concept of shalom encompasses this sort of peace, it is only a part of what God promised.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This calls us to work along with Spirit to restore God’s peace here on Earth (Matthew 5:9).
Shalom also means “wholeness, and well-being.” It is the ideal—for our individual lives and for that of God’s creation at large; the world of all the living. It’s a return to God’s original creation before we missed the mark.
It is what was meant to be: a slice of heaven.
We can’t have that if we are taking things personally.
Nehru tells us: “Peace is not a relationship of nations; it is a condition of the mind brought about by serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”
WE can be those people!
When we allow peace as our natural state, we bless every person, every relationship, every interaction, no matter how small or fleeting, with our peaceful presence.
And we cannot be in that peaceful presence if we are taking something personally.
That takes you out of your natural state.
When we discussed “Don’t take anything personally” last month, we mentioned that we could not be in a state of PRESENCE if we were taking something personally.
And if that were the case, then Peace would not be there, it could not be attainable.
So, we must focus on peace. We must clear our mind of cluttered thoughts and replace them with images of tranquility. Maybe we use visualization and see a quiet lake, the stars on a clear night sky, or our family snuggled into restful sleep. It is there where we let go of outer concerns and trust Spirit.
If we can remember that no one is against us and everything and everyone is for us, how could we NOT be at peace?
Peace is a state of mind where we know we are one with Spirit.
Commit to be peaceful in our thoughts, words, and actions.
Rev. Melody Martin, gives us a three-step process of releasing in order to get to those moments of knowing:
One step requires releasing others’ perceptions of you. You do not have to take on others’ perceptions as they do not belong to you. That is all about the other. Your perception of self is the only one that ultimately matters! You are the one who has to live with yourself.
Another imperative form of releasing is forgiveness. Forgiveness means releasing others from what you have perceived they have done or failed to do. It is your perception. You have the power to release or not. To suffer or not.
It is also imperative to forgive yourself, to release your own perceptions of what you have done or not done. Let go of the past. You can choose to take the wisdom you have gained from the past and release the rest, it no longer serves you.
The last form of releasing is releasing the future. Peace comes in the moment. The Now is all we have. When we have experienced peace, it has always been in the Now moment.
If we are in the NOW, we have no basis to take anything personally.
Peace is embedded within us…how do we cultivate, nurture, and activate the peace we already have within? Make a commitment to peace—find a way to remain calm
Tell yourself that you prefer peace to whatever is happening. And keep saying that until you find peace within and all around.
Create a place for your heart to take the lead over your head, closer to peace. Our hearts are way smarter than our brains!
Even in the midst of a room full of laughing and talking people, we can find the quiet by just loving and blessing the people, not taking anything personally.
How to stay in perfect peace: release the temptation to review troubles and anxieties; practice gratitude to focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t, give thanks to God for what we have. Always be in gratitude.
In this way, we prepare the way for receiving even greater good; fill our mind with positive, powerful thoughts of good that attract love, joy and beauty
This way, there is no way taking something personally has a place to take hold.
Say, “I see peace instead of this,” when something tries to challenge your peaceful place.
Regardless of what is happening, “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!
1st Sunday of Advent – Hope & Faith and “Be Impeccable with your word”
And I hope you had a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. The day to remind us to be thankful, not that we need reminding. We all know the gift of gratitude…both in giving and receiving. And receiving is especially important…keep the circle of love and gratitude going!
And in case you might have forgotten, I am grateful for you all, who have made Unity Spiritual Center a place filled with love and peace and joy.
And also Hope and Faith…the first themes of Advent. Yes, ADVENT already. It’s been an interesting year, 2020. And as we wind down to the end of one and the beginning of another, we have many thoughts and even lessons from this year.
Can you think of any?
For many of us, taking care of ourselves by wearing a mask and keeping a distance from others might be something new to learn, especially since many of us do not do well, thinking of ourselves first.
And then realizing, as we take care of ourselves by wearing that mask, we are taking care of others too, makes it even more important but also, easier to do. It always seems when we think of others first, it’s easier to do.
We also learned to be at home a lot more than we were used to. And that meant learning what to do with that time in the house. I hope you took some time to do some inner work…and maybe still are!
Maybe you had to learn about sharing that space with others more than you normally did. Maybe you had to learn to be with yourself more than you were used to…and that was probably interesting…right?
I am sure you have more ideas that you are welcome to share, make a note on FB or send me a message, I’d love to hear from you.
So, yes, today we start Advent. Advent is a time of spiritual preparation. It means beginning as we work toward Christmas, representing the divine child born in each of us.
This year we are looking at Advent through the Lens of the Four Agreements. Since we just discussed Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, I thought it would or could be interesting to look at the Advent themes with the 4 Agreements in mind.
What does Hope and Faith, Peace, Love and Joy have to do with the Birth of the Christ Consciousness and how in the world do the Four Agreements tie in? I hope you will join us for a journey into the season of preparation weaving these different aspects of consciousness into our preparation for the Christ birth.
From the little booklet on advent, titled “The Spirit of Christmas” from Unity Worldwide Ministries, most Christians focus on hope during the first week of Advent. In Unity, perhaps inspired by the view that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” we contemplate both hope and faith as we spiritually prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas …
Hope arises when we glimpse a new possibility. These glimpses can inspire us to make positive changes. They can motivate us to adopt new ways of thinking and behaving.
Recall what the Four Agreements were asking us to do, make changes in the way we interact with others and in effect, change our lives.
Our 1st Agreement, “Be Impeccable with Your Word” is asking us to put our faith in our ability to speak with integrity. Speaking with integrity first means we must discern what our integrity entails. We must challenge our beliefs. Get past our domestication and look with faith, turning hope into faith to be our true self.
As we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, we have hope that that coming will bring to us a new faith. It has been a year filled with learning opportunities. Our integrity may have been challenged many times. We may have become discouraged as the pandemic waned and then escalated, back and forth.
Our families and friends became even more important to us as we prayed and had faith that they were safe. We found new ways of communicating with them, from a safe distance.
It was in 1917 when Charles Fillmore said we can experience more peace and happiness during the holiday season by helping others to understand the true meaning of the birth of Christ within themselves. He wrote in “Christmas Literature,” published in the December 1917 issue of UNITY magazine; “You can easily do this if you select wisely your Christmas offerings . . . so let your selections be those things that will make the joy of Christ be felt, not only this season, but every hour of all time to come.”
Many refer to the first candle as the candle of hope but also of prophecy. The Hebrew Bible talked of the messiah who would come. They were impeccable with their words. They spoke words directly from our Source, God, Spirit, Divine Energy.
The people of Israel put their faith in those words. What are you putting your faith in?
I am not saying that we should just hunker down in our homes and pray. We should always definitely pray and meditate or take time for contemplation. But we must remember that we all have a gift to share. And those scientists working on how to treat and prevent this disease and many others are here to share their gift…the gift of science.
They are being impeccable with their word by working with integrity to find a cure.
So, we find patience in this ‘pause.’ We do what is ours to do and, in this case, we listen to the truth that is being presented by the scientists as they discuss their findings and tests and then how all that can help us.
In the meantime, the more present we are with others, the more impeccable our words and actions will be with others.
Not presents but presence…
Christmas is a shining light at the end of this long year. Feel the hope and faith as we travel through each week. Let the lights and decorations lift you with childlike anticipation. Watch the Christmas themed movies and eat a few Christmas cookies!
Look again to see if you are being present with others. No disassociating as the family and friends have gathered to share with you. But sharing the love and excitement with them. Be impeccable with your words, thoughts and actions.
And I invite you to check me…let me know whether my words are in alignment with my beliefs. It’s always interesting to hear what other have to say as they give constructive criticism.
Remember, every experience is our teacher
I give you this as we go into meditation:
“May you have enough happiness to make you sweet,
enough trials to make you strong,
enough sorrow to keep you human,
enough hope to make you happy.”
GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!
OK, we’ve come to the 4th Agreement, Always Do Your Best.
With this 4th Agreement, we integrate the first three and put them all to the test by doing each one in the best way we can. Easy, right?
Not necessarily so.
Have you tried one yet, much less all 4?!!?
So, let’s look at each of the first three agreements and what that would look like when looking through the eyes of doing our best.
The 1st Agreement; Be Impeccable with Your Word. As a reminder, to be impeccable with our word, we wish to observe our words, both internal and those we speak; to ourselves and to others, about our life and about society. This means no gossiping!
Have you tried that yet? It may be more difficult than you think. Think back over the last few days…how often did you find yourself in the midst of gossiping with family or friends, without even a second thought?
It is a serious ‘habit’ that many of us have and without much thought. So, review your recent discussions and when the talk came around to about someone, how much was gossip?
And how do we tell if its gossip? Great question.
The dictionary tells us gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true”.
We can ask ourselves – Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?
Is It True?
While we rarely speak with the intention to tell outright lies, that doesn’t make our words true. We can perpetuate rumors, spread gossip, exaggerate in ways that cater to our egos and personal bias. Or, we can simply talk in ways that aren’t authentic to who we are and what we want to communicate. When speaking, ask yourself, Is this true? And if it’s not, why am I saying it? What am I really trying to communicate by stretching the truth?
Is It Necessary?
Words that take the form of negative comments, complains, or insults can help air our grievances, but they don’t always improve upon the silence. While we mustn’t ever censor ourselves, there are many times when what we want to say isn’t necessary or helpful for the situation at hand. Or, it might be necessary, but not for the given time, place, or audience. It’s always worth considering, Is this necessary? Is this necessary right now? Are these exact words right for the message I want to communicate?
Is It Kind?
When you say things, are you showing empathy? Are you taking into consideration the feelings of others? Are you saying something that will lift the mood or lift the spirits of those in the room? Expressing kindness isn’t about mindless optimism or giving gratuitous compliments: it’s about knowing which words are the most compassionate. Sometimes, this means refraining from speaking at all. Other times, it means saying what has to be said but using only the gentlest phrasing. Always ask, is this kind? Does what I’m about to say express compassion?
The goal of mindful speech is not to police your sentences. The point is to be conscious of the words that we often take for granted. Being mindful about speech simply means slowing down and choosing our sentences with care.
Being impeccable and doing our best…are you doing your best when it comes to being impeccable with your words…spoken and thoughts?
It may mean taking a step back when gathering with family and friends and when gossiping starts, either excuse yourself, or, better yet, ask the people involved to refrain from using the power of words against others…including yourself.
Agreement #2; Don’t take anything personally. If you recall, this agreement also has to do with the power and magic of words. This is about how we react to what others say and do about or against us.
And how could we do our best with this agreement? Easily said but not necessarily done, remember that what others say and do is about them, not you. If we remember that it is about the other person, then we get to choose how or even IF we wish to respond.
It’s the old, don’t react, respond rule. And if we are good at keeping this agreement as best as we are able, then we are always in responding mode, not reacting. If we find ourselves reacting, we know that we are not doing our best.
And Agreement #3; Don’t make assumptions. The biggest and best way to always do our best with this Agreement is to ask questions. Make sure you are understanding what the other person is trying to say. It is up to us to understand the other person and if we don’t to ask for further explanation; if we don’t say, “tell me more,” then we are not doing our best.
And as the speaker, it is up to us to make sure the person you are speaking with understands what you are saying.
So, both persons in the discussion have a responsibility to each other. And THAT is how we do our best when we are not making assumptions.
Not only is this a great way for understanding communication, but it is also a way to be authentic, with yourself and with others. Being authentic is how we want to show up.
It involves doing the best that one can individually manage, which varies from the different situations and circumstances that the individual may encounter. Ruiz believes that if one avoids self-judgment and does their best in every given moment, they will be able to avoid regret.
By incorporating the first three agreements and doing the best they can in all facets of life, individuals will be able to live a life free from sorrow and self-ridicule.
Our best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to feeling ill. Or maybe you don’t enjoy the task at hand, do you slack off or do you put 100% into it?
We know what the answer SHOULD be to that question, but do you do your 100%, no matter what? I hope so, even if the 100% you give this morning may look and even feel different than the 100% you give this evening.
I can tell you, my 100% these last days is very different than my usual 100%, because I have not been sleeping very well. So, it’s hard to concentrate as I normally would, so writing this weeks’ Message is taking a bit longer than my ‘normal’ writing time.
Can you admit to yourself and maybe even your family and friends, that sometimes your best is not your highest quality, but at the time, it is your best…and THAT is ok?
Can you be ok with that? If you are doing your 100%, you can’t do more than that, even if, yesterday, your 100% was a bit more quality than today.
And no matter what, you can’t give more than 100%…Not possible. It may feel that way to you, but it’s not possible. Sounds nice tho, doesn’t it? All you do if you try to go beyond what your 100% is at the time is frustrate yourself and probably wear yourself down. And often, trying beyond your energy level causes accidents and inadequate work.
So just try to make progress, do better the next time. Don’t compare yourself to others; your best is not the same as your friends or family. Just learn from your experiences and each time you will get better.
Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
How’s everyone today? Did you enjoy last Sunday’s special Guest, Rev. Pamela Whitman? She is very talented. And it was a nice break for Greg, Andrea, and myself. We each had a mini vacation, dogs and I got to visit with my friend Laurie and my sister!
So, back to Delaware!
We started this miniseries on The Four Agreements, a few weeks ago with the most important Agreement, Be Impeccable with Your Word. How have you been doing with that?
Being impeccable means watching all your words and use only words that express love, including your thoughts!
Not only ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ but THINK about others as you would have them Think about you!
Thoughts are powerful also.
We followed up that Agreement with number 2, “Don’t Take Anything Personally”. This agreement is about words too, but it’s about what others have to say about us and how we handle it.
Now we are at agreement number 3, “Don’t Make Assumptions”
For example: A policeman was heading home after a long, hard day on patrol. He had dealt with a whole succession of difficult people, and a mountain of frustrating paperwork. All he wanted at this point was to kick back, unwind, enjoy some peace and quiet, and maybe watch a few innings of baseball on TV.
But, as he neared his home, he was startled by a vehicle that came careening around a sharp curve and narrowly missed his squad car. As the car passed within inches of him, the other driver shouted “Pig!”
The police officer was suddenly energized. He slammed on his breaks, all set to turn his squad car around and head off in hot pursuit. But as he rounded the curve….he ran head-on into a large pig that was standing in the middle of the road.
How often do we make an assumption that turns out to be completely inaccurate? More often, I would submit, than when the assumption is correct.
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. It helps us organize our thoughts. However, as we said earlier, more often than not the assumption isn’t true.
And that is the problem, when we make an assumption, we believe it to be true, like our policeman earlier.
And when we make that assumption, it can lead to suffering.
We make assumptions about what others are thinking or doing – we take it personally-then we blame them and react by being angry, manipulative, or avoid the person.
When one assumes what others are thinking, it can create stress and interpersonal conflict because the person believes their assumption is a representation of the truth.
“Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions and believe we are right; then try to defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.”
We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.
The funny thing is that the only way we can see anything is through our own eyes – through our own experiences that lead to our assumptions. However, what Ruiz is cautioning us to do is to know this and to avoid projecting our perceptions onto others.
When you avoid projecting your perceptions onto others, you are better able to detach from a potential emotional charge that might or might not be intended. Also, you aren’t jumping to any conclusions until you have listened with clarity – you have actively listened.
To practice active listening requires you to listen with full attention, ask questions, and paraphrase/repeat what was said to check for clear understanding. When the other person agrees that you have understood them, the communication is less ambiguous and more harmonious.
This is easy to talk about and makes perfect sense, but it is not always easy to do. It requires commitment to the cultivation of habit and loving, undistracted focus.
Ruiz suggests that you find the courage to listen without making assumptions as well as to “express what you really want”. We can interpret this to mean that we must not make assumptions that we are being heard in the way we mean to be heard. This requires responsibility for your “voice”, and if you are misunderstood, it means that the issue might be the other person’s miscomprehension or it might be your miscommunication.
Don’t make assumptions about this either because that is only a distraction and can cause an artificial emotional charge for the egos involved, including yours. Instead, take responsibility because if the other person has miscomprehended, it means that you have, nevertheless, miscommunicated!
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Asking “Tell me more,” or “I don’t know,” or even “I don’t understand,” can lead to further discussion and avoid the assumption that could happen if the questions were not asked.
Making assumptions in our relationships is really asking for problems.
We often make assumptions that our partners know what we think, what we want. We talked about this when we discussed “The 5 Love Languages.” Do you recall what your love language is?
Remember, a solution to overcoming the act of making an assumption is to ask questions and ensure that the communication is clear between the persons involved.
Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
The human mind works in interesting ways in that it has a need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything, in order to feel safe. There are so many things that the human mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions.
And probably why we have so many answers to the same questions. Just look at our politics. We made the assumption that everyone saw things as we do. They thought as we did, felt as we did, made judgments as we did…and THAT is the biggest assumption we can make!
So, the way to keep from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure to communicate clearly. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as can be and even then, don’t assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.
Find your voice to ask. Everyone has the right to say no, but you always have the right to ask.
We are here to transform our lives and that of our Earth. We are to find the deeper parts of ourselves, to let go that which binds us and to find something larger which expands us and moves us into a deeper peace, a deeper appreciation and a deeper love.
Without making assumptions, your word becomes impeccable
Our Series; “The Four Agreements – 2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally’
Good morning again, and it is great to be with you again, even if it is in these circumstances. Any way we can stay connected with you…right!
We are in our second week of this new series on the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This series is giving us another opportunity to question where we are and where we wish to be headed on the spiritual journey, we call life.
Forward or backwards? Which will it be? Always your choice. Thought we know by now that going backwards isn’t really an option. Once we know these truths, we can’t really go back.
And these Agreements may help us all make the choices we need to make on the journey of forward motion.
Remember, these are agreements that you have made with life. You must have agreed with it to make it true for you.
SO, did last week’s Message, “Be Impeccable with Your Word” start anything for you? Did it resonate? Did you consider your words and what they were telling you about yourself? About others?
We want to use our words to build up, not take down. We wish to speak with integrity and honesty.
This second agreement is about thoughts, words, and actions also, but it is about what others have to say about us and how we handle it.
“Don’t take anything personally”
When we take things personally, we are agreeing with what was said about us. We are trapped in ‘personal importance,’ everything is about me, me, me.
Are we really that self-centered?
Even when a situation seems so personal, maybe someone is insulting you directly, it’s not you. It’s the other person’s issue.
I am sure we all have situations where we have been insulted, or hurt, by something that was said towards you. It can be difficult to not be offended when that statement hits a chord within you.
I can recall walking my first bichon, Tosha, she was getting old, walking slow, her fur not as thick, you could see her age spots through it. As we walked through the neighborhood, some teens skateboarded by us saying, “Ugly lady, ugly dog.” I must have believed that to have it bother me at the time.
Or when we had a chasm in our young Unity community a few years ago, I was told by one of the folks who suddenly left the congregation, that I didn’t know what I was doing and we needed someone who did.
Each time I had to go within and see where I believed the statement and then heal that wound.
So, pay attention to those times when we are wounded by another’s words or actions. See where the wound is that needs healing. And then work on that healing.
We can’t truly be free until we can stop taking things personally. At the time we get offended we have given our power to that person. We are being controlled by their words, behavior, their actions.
As soon as we understand that what others think about us is none of our business, we are free.
But when we buy into their words, we have given over to the attachment of those words…they now have meaning to us, we believe them.
What would happen if we took that energy from being offended and use it to be transformed? To truly know who we are, what we are made of?
We are of God, Divine Spirit…we are spiritual beings; we are not powerless, not weak, but powerful.
Don’t react when someone says to you, “Now don’t take this personally, but…?” WE know intellectually who we are, but we still get that gut reaction, don’t we.
We must learn to keep our hearts open and not take it personally. Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with us, it is about them.
Stop living in the realm of emotions and the outer and begin to live from within. DO not be a victim to others’ opinions…don’t take things personally.
Here are the steps to remember who we are when someone offends us:
- Be still, be silent
- Recognize that our buttons have been pushed.
- Look within to find the wounded place, an old story and heal it.
- Remember to open your heart.
- Remember we are made of spirit
- Remember that whatever anyone does or says to you, that it does not disturb the calm peace of your soul.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you will be the victim of needless suffering.”
Don’t choose suffering. Take the opportunity to transform that energy to growth. Be the true you…a part of our Creator, blessed to be here. Be grateful for all your blessings and share them with your family and friends. Share your love with the Earth and her children.
Let’s get back on track and take care of each other. And we can do that by knowing what we say and how we say it. Speak with truth and honesty, with compassion and love and we will transform our world to one of peace.
New Series: The Four Agreements
Do you remember when you were very young, growing up first in your family, and later as you made your way through your school. Maybe attending a religious service weekly.
And all the things, the rules and concepts and laws that you, and me…all of us, were taught as we made our way along in family and society.
We learned what our language was and our religion, what the rules of the house were and what would happen if they were not followed. And we continued to learn the rewards and punishments as we moved through all the parts of society…home, school, church, work…etc.
Don Miguel Ruiz calls these Agreements. We made agreements with our families, our school and workplace, everywhere. We allowed ourselves to be domesticated by our society, by these hundreds of agreements.
If we wished for acceptance, we strived to follow these rules of rewards and punishments. This was what brought us love…and who doesn’t want love?
If we are beautiful enough…we will be loved.
If we are smart enough…we will be loved.
If we don’t show emotion…don’t cry…we will be loved.
If we stood out with talent, athletically or academically or musically or artistically….we would be loved. We’d have fans.
Don Miguel Ruiz tells us, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. …somewhere someone told us through their word, that we were not enough, and we agreed with it.”
And so, we end up judging ourselves…comparing ourselves against others. We judge the others too, searching for perfection.
Well, the time of making our way through life repeating the same 95% of the 60,000 thoughts we have every day is gone. We are way past the time foraging for food while at the same time watching out for saber-toothed tiger attacks.
Of all these agreements, the most important ones are the ones you have with yourself…who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave. I see it as your true self, your integrity.
When we hold onto agreements that make us suffer, make us fail in life…they hold us back. They interfere with our inner as well as outer, growth.
We must find the will, the courage to break these fear-based agreements.
To do that, we can use these positive, Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
By making a pact with these four key agreements, an individual is able to dramatically impact the amount of happiness they feel in their lives, regardless of external circumstances
We will look at each for the next weeks and then associate them with the four themes of Advent. So, pay attention please, as we move forward, so you will be able to relate it all together.
First, Be impeccable with your word.
In Ruiz’s mind, this is the most important.’ Can you think why?
It is the most difficult one to honor
To be impeccable means to be in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless.
We are told that being impeccable means “without sin.” A sin, according to Ruiz, is anything that you do which goes against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”
We ‘speak with integrity.’ Saying only what you mean. And avoiding speaking against yourself or to gossip.
This is more than being honest. We are to use our speech to lift up ourselves and those around us, to build community rather than tear it down.
Being impeccable with our word begins with ourselves. We all know that a lot of negative self-talk goes on…in fact, we probably talk more negatively about ourselves than we do of others. If we use negative talk with ourselves, it’s bound to come out against others eventually.
Of course, we all make mistakes, but as we take responsibility for our words and actions without judgment for ourselves or for others, we learn and grow. And move forward.
Our words are not just a sound or a written symbol. They have energy, force…it is a power we all have to express and communicate, to think and to create.
We humans are the only creatures that have this power of the word, to create…like magic…
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” – Dumbledore
Words have power. Their meaning crystallizes perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and ultimately, create our world. Their power arises from our emotional responses when we read, speak, or hear them.
Take the words interview and interrogation. Which would you like to hear when entering a meeting?
Each one presented a different vision in your mind as to what you might experience in the meeting, did it not?
So, we need to choose our words wisely.
Rumi: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
We learned to gossip by agreement. As children we heard the adults around us gossip, openly giving their opinions about others, we thought this was a normal way of communicating.
Gossip is likened to a computer virus, using the same language but with harmful intent. Often, hearing something said about another is imprinted in our mind, and it is difficult to release. This is the harm of gossip.
There is the story of a man living in a village. He got along with his neighbors for a time. Then, one day, his neighbors started ignoring him, He didn’t understand why. Eventually, no one in the village would speak with him.
One day he asked his neighbor what had happened, why wouldn’t they speak with him and the neighbor confessed that he had started a rumor about him, in a jealous moment of not thinking.
He asked what he could do to make amends.
The man asked his neighbor to come to his house. They went upstairs to the bedroom window, opened it and took a feather pillow, ripped it open and shook it out the window.
Feathers flowed everywhere, as they reached the ground a breeze came by a blew them further in all directions. The neighbor looked at the man who lied about his reputation said, ‘those feathers are like your words, once spoken, they can’t be brought back.’
We are imprinted with the words and the emotional code that they were said with. We may not know why the other was saying the words – were they angry, jealous? What was the motivation?
So, we end up looking through the other persons lens; their fear and judgments, instead of our own opinions.
We are always building our world with our words….what are you building?
If we are going to be Impeccable with our words, we are
- Building our own self up with the words,
- Supporting others, sharing love, radiating positive thoughts and feelings,
- Using our words in the direction of truth and the energy of love.
When we use our word to support another, to share love, positive thoughts, feelings, we are actually loving ourselves.
We can only use our word ‘against another, (which is actually against ourselves) if we do not love ourselves.
Buddha – “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with great care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
From ‘The Four Agreements’ “For years we have received gossip from the words of others, but also from ourselves. We talk to ourselves constantly, and mostly saying things like: ‘oh, I look fat,’ ‘I look ugly,’ ‘I’m getting old,’ ‘I’m stupid,’ ‘I will never be good enough,’ and similar negative statements.” See how we use the word against ourselves?
We must begin to understand what the word is and what it does.
If we understand the 1st agreement, be impeccable with your word, we begin to see all the changes that can happen in our life. Changes first in the way we deal with ourself, and later in the way we deal with other people, especially those we love the most.
Consider that your opinion is only your point of view, created from your beliefs, your ego and your dream. Spreading it to others is your ego wishing to be right.
Being impeccable with your word clears your mind from negativity, so only words of love survive.
Just this one agreement can change your whole life. It can free you from all fear and transform it into joy and love.
Here are some positive ways to put this into practice:
Ask yourself where you are impeccable with your word?
Practice using your words with integrity.
Begin with yourself…tell yourself each day how much you love yourself, how great you are, how wonderful you are.
Use words to break the agreements you have made with yourself, maybe through domestication with your family, your religious beliefs.
Speak only words of love, peace, joy.
In 1712, William Lynch stood on the bank of the James River and gave a speech, the topic, How to Make a Slave. His secret, separation, intimidation and manipulation. We know about the whippings. But the manipulation between old and young, and especially between male and female, we most likely did not.
Willie Lynch’s idea was to change the hierarchy of the family, making the woman the strong, independent one and the male the weaker by removing him from the family, often whipping him, selling him or even killing him-in an effort to show him as weak. That way, the child becomes dependent upon the female psychologically, spiritually. Willies’ idea of taking the male away from the female after a child is born to make the child dependent upon their mother may, in my opinion, be seen in many of today’s families still.
Just an example of the strength of family history and domestication in the life of African Americans.
We have looked at both white privilege and racial history. Even I, who grew up very poor, in a food insecure household for half of my childhood, I understand that I had and probably still have, white privilege.
And I believe that when we begin with admitting we had a start, however small, we still had a start over people of color.
And from there, once we admit to that privilege, we can open our eyes to see our racism and start learning to resolve it…where did it come from and what do we do with it, how do we release it from our minds and especially, from our hearts.
For that, we see guidance everywhere in the Bible: for example, from Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It is within OUR interests to remove racism from our hearts. We each start with ourselves and so begin the transformation of our nation. Remember, peace begins with each of us.
I have something I found on FB from David Gamble, Jr., a black man. He posted it June 13th and it has been shared over 94000 times, with over 1000 comments, mostly of appreciation. This is part of that essay, giving us a brief look at racism in our country:
I grew up in Reno, Nevada.
In third grade a boy confidently tells me and my brother that his mom said black people cannot swim because our muscles are different than those of white people.
In middle school, standing among a group of white classmates talking about video games, I am the only black child. One classmate expresses surprise that my family has enough money to afford a PlayStation.
In high school, my brother is at a teen house party that gets broken up by police, a common occurrence. The kids at the party scatter, also a common occurrence. My brother, the only black child in attendance, is the only one on whom a police officer draws a firearm to get him to stop running away. He is 14.
In high school, a group of my white friends frequently sneak on to the outdoor basketball courts at an athletic club to play. They can usually play for hours, including with club members. On the two occasions I attend, club members complained, and we are ejected from the club within minutes.
In high school, I am excited about black history month and am talking to a friend about black inventors. My friend snorts and says, “Black people have never invented anything.”
In college I am standing in a group of white friends on campus. A white acquaintance of one of my friends approaches to chat. The acquaintance tells a story about something that frustrated him and then reels off a series of expletives ending with the N word. None of my friends corrects him.
In college I visit an antique shop in Auburn, California with my girlfriend, who is white, and her parents. The shopkeeper follows me around the store whistling loudly as I browse, until we leave.
I move to San Diego, California for law school.
In law school, during a discussion in my criminal law class, a white classmate suggests that police officers should take a suspect’s race into account when determining whether there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an individual is committing a crime.
The weekend of my law school graduation my family comes to San Diego. I go to the mall with my brother and sister and visit the Burberry store. Two different employees follow us around the store – never speaking to us – until we leave.
After law school, I return to Reno.
I attend a pub crawl with friends. We end up at a party in a hotel suite in downtown Reno. I am greeted by a white man at the door who loudly expresses surprise that I am an “educated negro” upon hearing me speak.
I walk a friend who is a white woman from a restaurant to her car because it is night- time. As we stand by the car chatting, a police officer pulls up and shines a light on us, asking if everything is okay. Once my friend confirms, the officer drives away. I tell her that he was worried about her, she teasingly says, “Oh yeah, because you’re so scary.” Later, I tell another white friend I felt racially profiled by the officer. My friend shrugs and says, “I don’t know man, that’s a stretch.”
A white friend tells me that white voters have become upset at black people because of black people’s liberal use of food welfare benefits. When I point out that more whites than blacks receive welfare benefits in the U.S., my friend expresses confusion at how that could be the case.
I discover that one of my clients does not want me to represent him as his Public Defender because he does not want a black attorney. I am given the option to withdraw as counsel. I do not.
Last year, I am at a barbecue chatting with a white acquaintance who asks if I have ever experienced racism. When I say it is a nearly daily occurrence, the acquaintance retorts, without missing a beat, that that is “BS.”
Before any of these instances, my family of origin moved to Reno, Nevada from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1984.
My mother recently told me that when I was a very young child my parents hired a company to remove a tree from our front lawn. Two white men showed up and removed the tree. One of them carved a swastika into the stump. My father had to confront him and ask him to remove it.
Before that, my now 93 -year-old grandfather served in the Army National Guard and was stationed in the U.S. south. Despite being active duty, he was not allowed to eat in restaurants due to “whites only” signage. He had to wait for fellow Guardsmen to bring him food outside.
Not long before that, my family were slaves, owned by Americans of English and Irish descent, which is why – despite being primarily of African descent – I have an English last name.
This is my experience of being black in America. To be black in America is to be told over and over that you are not good enough, that you do not belong, that you are genetically unfit, that your physical presence is undesirable, and that everything about you – right down to your lips – is wrong. It is absolutely true that everyone experiences hardships in life, but the psychological weight of being told both explicitly and implicitly, on a daily basis, that your very existence is objectionable can at times feel unbearable.
And despite this experience, I still love my country, my state, and my city. Despite my experience, I would not choose to be anything other than a black American. The history of black people in this country is one of struggle and triumph.
Our people were brought to this country as slaves and against all odds, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have made our mark. Through slavery, poll taxes, literacy tests, redlining, and black codes we have persevered. Through the unspeakable horrors of mass lynching’s, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and the massacres at Tulsa and Rosewood, we have persevered.
Bass Reeves, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Sarah Boone, Oscar Micheaux, Shirley Chisholm, Dorie Miller, Susie King Taylor, Georgia Gilmore, Octavius Catto, Jack Johnson, Garrett Morgan, James W.C. Pennington. These are just a handful of extraordinary and oft forgotten black Americans who helped to mold and preserve the American Dream. These individuals and their accomplishments should not be regarded as “black history,” but rather as American history.
I am an American of privilege, which makes me an African American of great privilege. I am an attorney. I live in a safe neighborhood. My children do not worry about their next meal. I can afford child-care. My family can afford personal vehicles. If my children become sick, I can take them to the doctor.
If I am this privileged, and these have been my experiences, primarily in my own hometown, often with friends and acquaintances who are fond of me, and of whom I remain fond even now; just imagine what daily life must be like for a black person in this country who does not enjoy my level of privilege.
The protests in the streets of America are certainly about the killing of George Floyd, but not just about George Floyd. They are about countless black men, women, and children for whom the punishment did not fit the crime – if indeed there was a crime at all. We live in a country where, in order to recall what life under Jim Crow felt like, many white Americans must pick up a history book. Meanwhile, many black Americans need only pick up a telephone, and call their parents.
When we as people of color share our experiences, we are not doing so to score political points, “play the race card,” get sympathy, assign blame, or to make you feel bad about yourself. We are asking you for help. We are asking you to join us in the ongoing fight against racism in our country, because we cannot do it alone. It will take Americans of every stripe to eradicate racism from American society.
I am now asking for your help. Please seek truth and knowledge. When sharing information, please check your sources and make sure that they are reliable. Try to place what is happening today into a historical context. Read about systemic racism and anti-racism. When your friends of color tell you that racism is real and affecting their lives, believe them and then, if you can, do something about it.
My children are likely to attend the same middle school and high school that I did. It is my great hope for them that those around them have the knowledge, compassion, and guidance to know better than to daily deluge them with words that make them doubt their intelligence, their beauty, and their worth as human beings based only on the color of their skin; and instead judge them by the content of their character.
It is for all of the above reasons, and so many more that we proudly say #blacklivesmatter
That was an essay from David Gamble, Jr. I thought it important to hear his message as we conclude our series on racism.
We are all, people of color and white people, burdened with our history of racial injustice. The onus is on all of us to confront our nation’s legacy of intolerance. Ask yourself, what is yours to do? Yes, start with yourself…ask questions, talk with others, reach out to learn what you can do for yourself and for our country, to make a change in this world. Knowledge is the key to understanding.
OUR Principles tell us that we are all one, with Divine Spirit as our Source, in and all around us. And as we learn more about our world and those in it, that knowledge brings us to new understanding. And once we know, we can’t go back. There is only forward.
So, ask what is yours to do, no matter what it is…it doesn’t need be some big Martin Luther King, Jr. type movement…every little bit helps. And it starts with each of us.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28
Racism and Black History, pt. 2
Welcome back to our series on racism in America. Some may wonder why we would be discussing racism as a Sunday Message. Racism is a spiritual issue. Plane and simple. Take the politics out of it.
We need to resolve it spiritually. Look inside and see where your race issues lie. Then move forward from there.
Remember, we are all one. There is only Good, and we are all part of that good. It is of us and we are of IT.
SO, please look at this issue as a spiritual issue, keeping ego and domestication out of the discussion, out of your heart.
And so, I hope discussing this information will open your heart to what is true in our country and world. If we are all one, then there should be no racism.
But since it is present, we have some work to do.
We must seek to understand, each and every one of our brothers and sisters.
So, let’s continue our look at Black history and how it helped to get us where we are in our country today.
Two weeks ago, we looked at White Privilege.
Last week, we looked at early years of slavery. With the Emancipation Proclamation, and later Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed.
But all these Amendments did little if racism is still so prevalent. It was and is more a moral issue than a legal one. Legality helps get us on the right track and helps to remind us where we needed to be.
The treatment of Africans and African Americans didn’t improve much. After being freed, they often found themselves tied to their former masters, working as sharecroppers because jobs, housing and food were not available to them. The promise of 40 acres and a mule did not happen to most.
And job opportunities were fewer to those looking into the booming manufacturing industry because of the increase of Irish and Italian immigrants taking those jobs, as well as the discriminations towards Blacks.
The Black Leaders didn’t help their cause either, as they often discriminated against their lighter skin colored brothers and sisters and vice versa.
But they DID chip away at the discrimination. They fought in both world wars, in some ways proving again that they were equal to their white brothers. They weren’t treated the same during their service, or when they returned, as we discussed last week. Those Service members were discriminated against by the GI Bill, if you recall…it was only for white GI’s.
They DID continue to prove that they were not ignorant or unable to learn. Some distinguished members of learned society gave us a variety of inventions, for example:
That ironing board we all know, and love was Invented by Sarah Boone in 1892
Carbon Light Bulb Filament invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881 allowed for longer lasting lights.
Automatic Elevator Doors, Invented by Alexander Miles in 1887
That Three-Light Traffic Light we try to beat was Invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923
As a postgraduate researcher at Columbia University in the late 1930s, Charles Drew invented a means of separating plasma from whole blood, allowing it to be stored for up to a week, far longer than had been possible at the time. Drew also discovered that plasma could be transfused between persons regardless of blood type.
Refrigerated Trucks, necessary for our ice cream as well as other food items, Invented by Frederick McKinley Jones in 1940
The Electret Microphone, Co-Invented by James E. West in 1964
Home Security System, Co-Invented by Mary Van Brittan Brown in 1966
Color IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip, Co-Invented by Mark Dean c. 1980 and 1999
Many more inventions were patented by Blacks. You might want to check that out.
Even though many members of the Black community moved forward in economic progress, it was hardly near what most whites were doing. They had to work harder to move forward, as we mentioned in our earlier Messages.
The Voting right act of 1965 was another hope to be the springboard to equality for the people of color. But it was not. Voter suppression, Jim Crow laws, literacy test, poll tax, physical harassment often kept the people from the polls.
White men who could not pass the literacy tests were able to vote due to the “Grandfather Clause” allowing them to participate in voting if their grandfathers voted by 1867
The grandfather clause was ruled unconstitutional in 1915. Poll taxes were abolished in 1964 with the 24th Amendment and literacy tests were outlawed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But did it stop voter suppression? No, and voter suppression continues to be a tool used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting today.
Congress did not provide enforcement for the 15th Amendment immediately, which didn’t help. And Tennessee was the last state to formally ratify the amendment in 1997, finally!
Additionally, the 19th Amendment did not guarantee Black women the right to vote. According to National Geographic, “In fall 1920, many Black women showed up at the polls.” In Kent County, Delaware, their numbers were “unusually large,” according to Wilmington’s News Journal, but officials turned away Black women who “failed to comply with the constitutional tests.”
Historians note an important difference between the motivation of white suffragists, who were working primarily with gender equality in mind, and black suffragists, who saw voting rights as a key part of racial equity and a means of uplifting their communities.
They continue to fight for equality and had made progress until recent events that have led to marching and in some cases, violence.
The progress after the Voting Rights Act came to a halt after the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder, changed the way the Voting Rights Act was implemented nationwide. Since 2010 before the decision, 25 states have put into place new requirements such as voter ID laws, closing polling places and cutbacks to early voting,
It seems in recent years we have moved backwards in our effort to be “all men are equal”
Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch wrote that the recent killing in that, “despite gains made in the past 50 years, we are still a nation riven by inequality and racial division.”
In 1968, the Kerner Commission, a group convened by President Lyndon Johnson, found that white racism, not black anger, was the impetus for the widespread civil unrest sweeping the nation.
As Alice George wrote in 2018, the commission’s report suggested that “[b]ad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheaval.”
In fact, Fifty years after the Kerner Report’s release, a separate study assessed how much had changed; it concluded that conditions had actually worsened. In 2017, black unemployment was higher than in 1968, as was the rate of incarcerated individuals who were black. The wealth gap had also increased substantially, with the median white family having ten times more wealth than the median black family. “We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty,” said Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, following the 2018 study’s release.
Anti-Black violence was growing. More and more vigilante attacks were terrorizing the Black communities.
More than 200 anti-lynching bills failed to make it through Congress. Per the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, more than 4,400 lynching’s—mob killings undertaken without legal authority—took place in the U.S. between the end of Reconstruction and World War II.
Incredibly, the Senate only passed legislation declaring lynching a federal crime in 2018.
It’s taken marches and riots and raised fists and bended knee. Now, with the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe, just maybe, we have turned the corner.
This has been and will continue to be an interesting year. With the pandemic, the extreme weather, the killings and marches and yes, even riots, maybe we can actually see the other side of humanity.
But if we genuinely believe we are all one with Spirit, we need to do more, or we will lose our humanity.
Racism & Black America
Good Morning my friends and thank you for returning to our series on Racism in our America, and, too often, in the world. Do you recall one of the questions I asked everyone at the beginning of this series? It was about the college professor who asked her lecture students a question. Now if any of you have ever been in a college lecture hall, they can be sizeable. That’s important because of the result of the question.
The question was, “If any of you would be ok to be treated as a Black person in our country, please raise your hand.”
No one raised their hand. Would you? Probably not.
AS most of you know, Blacks and other people of color have often been treated most shameful, and sometimes repulsive ways, and not just in our past, but in recent times too.
How does that fit into “Love your neighbor as yourself”?
I can recall when I and a friend of mine, went to a traveling exhibit of the Titanic and its fateful sinking. We each were given the name and situation of a person who traveled on that doomed ship. We knew some background information, where their passage was and what happened to them after the ice-burg hit.
It was an interesting and more personal look at that historical event. You felt a real part of the experience, more so than just looking at exhibits.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to do that with slavery? If we were more attached to the outcome of the person we were representing, maybe we would have a better and more compassionate understanding of what it meant and be better human beings to each other. If only.
It could and CAN happen. We need to keep working at understanding each other, but even more, ourselves.
The voyage from Africa to the Americas took several months. Many didn’t survive the trip. Shock, disease, and suicide were responsible for the deaths of at least one-sixth during the crossing. Some seeing suicide a better choice than being a slave. There were mostly young adults but many children too, most under ten, even as young as two, by one account.
The development of the belief that they were an “inferior” race with a “heathen” culture made it easier for whites to rationalize Black slavery.
Once purchased, the slaves were used in the tobacco, sugar and cotton fields as well as general labor and domestic work. Black slaves played a major, though unwilling and generally unrewarded, role in laying the economic foundations of the United States—especially in the South.
Many masters took sexual liberties with enslaved women, and rewarded obedient behavior with favors, while rebellious enslaved people were brutally punished. A social hierarchy among the plantation slaves also helped keep them divided.
At the top were the house slaves; next in rank were the skilled artisans; at the bottom were the vast majority of field hands, who bore the brunt of the harsh plantation life. This helped keep them divided and less likely to organize against their masters.
With this tight control there were few successful slave revolts. There were several, though not very successful to freeing themselves, and causing more hangings instead, though some whites were also killed.
Although Northern businessmen made great fortunes from the trade of enslaved peoples and from investments in Southern plantations, slavery was never widespread in the North. Remember, Northerners held themselves above the Southerners, considering themselves more educated, refined and open-minded.
Laws known as the slave codes regulated the slave system to promote absolute control by the master and complete submission by the slave. Under these laws the slave was a piece of property and a source of labor that could be bought and sold like an animal. The slave was allowed no stable family life and little privacy. Slaves were prohibited by law from learning to read or write.
During the American Revolution, some 5,000 Black soldiers and sailors fought on the American side. After the Revolution, some slaves—particularly former soldiers—were freed, and the Northern states abolished slavery.
But with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, in 1788, slavery became more firmly entrenched than ever in the South. The Constitution counted a slave as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and representation in Congress (thus increasing the number of representatives from slave states), prohibited Congress from abolishing the African trade of enslaved peoples before 1808, and provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their owners.
In 1807 Pres. Thomas Jefferson signed legislation that officially ended the African trade of enslaved peoples beginning in January 1808. However, this act did not end of slavery. Rather, it spurred the growth of the domestic trade of enslaved peoples in the United States, especially as a source of labor for the new cotton lands in the Southern interior. Increasingly, the supply of slaves came to be supplemented by the practice of “slave breeding,” in which women slaves were raped as early as age 13 and forced to give birth as often as possible.
Individual resistance by slaves took such forms as mothers killing their newborn children to save them from slavery, the poisoning of slave owners, the destruction of machinery and crops, arson, malingering (which may have led to the belief that Blacks were lazy), and running away.
We know of the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman, a former slave who on numerous trips to the South helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. Imagine running for your life, meeting Harriet and knowing you must trust this woman that you do not know. And all the others along the railroad. Must have been frightening…and exhilarating. Freedom finally, after all that you have been through, you see the end….and a new beginning.
By 1860 there were almost 500,000 free Africans and African Americans (those born in America)—half in the South and half in the North. The free Black population originated with former indentured servants and their descendants. It was augmented by free Black immigrants from the West Indies and by Blacks freed by individual slave owners.
We know they were only technically free, however. In the South, where they posed a threat to the institution of slavery, they suffered both in law and by custom many of the restrictions imposed on slaves.
In the North, free Blacks were discriminated against in such rights as voting, property ownership, and freedom of movement, though they had some access to education and could organize. Free Blacks also faced the danger of being kidnapped and enslaved.
Did you know that there were Black slave holders? Well, they were free Blacks who often reunited family by purchasing them. One way of getting around the master’s keeping families apart.
In Dred Scott v. Sanford, in 1857, the Supreme Court denied citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, and descendants of slaves, and denied Congress the right to prohibit slavery in the territories.
Historians and judicial scholars regard the Dred Scott decision as “the worst decision ever.”
Free Blacks were among the first abolitionists.
By 1830, African American leaders began meeting regularly in national and state conventions. But they differed on the best strategies to use in the struggle against slavery and discrimination.
Some thought to revolt and overthrow their masters. Others proposed that a major modern Black country be established in Africa. Supported by the American Colonization Society, whose membership was overwhelmingly white, African Americans founded Liberia in West Africa
However, most Black leaders then and later regarded themselves as Americans and felt that the problems of their people could be solved only by a continuing struggle at home. Maybe the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.
The preservation of the Union, not the abolition of slavery, was the initial objective of President Lincoln when it came to the Civil War. He initially believed in gradual emancipation, with the federal government compensating the slaveholders for the loss of their “property.”
But in September 1862 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves residing in states in rebellion against the United States as of January 1, 1863, were to be free. Thus, the Civil War became, in effect, a war to end slavery.
Blacks were recruited into the Union armed forces. Frederick Douglass declared in his newspaper the North Star, “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.”
By the end of the Civil War more than 186,000 African American men were in the Union army. They performed heroically despite discrimination in pay, rations, equipment, and assignments as well as the unrelenting hostility of the Confederate troops. Slaves served as a labor force for the Confederacy, but thousands of them dropped their tools and escaped to the Union lines.
As a result of the Union victory in the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed.
Yet the Reconstruction period (1865–77) was one of disappointment and frustration for African Americans, for these new provisions of the Constitution were often ignored, particularly in the South.
After the Civil War, the freedmen were thrown largely on their own meagre resources. Landless and uprooted, they moved about in search of work. They generally lacked adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
The Southern states enacted Black codes, laws resembling the slave codes that restricted the movement of the former slaves in an effort to force them to work as plantation laborers—often for their former masters—at absurdly low wages.
The federal Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress in 1865, assisted the former slaves by giving them food and finding jobs and homes for them. The bureau established hospitals and schools, including such institutions of higher learning as Fisk University and Hampton Institute.
During Reconstruction, African Americans wielded political power in the South for the first time. Their leaders were largely clergymen, lawyers, and teachers who had been educated in the North and abroad. Between 1869 and 1901, there were 20 African American representatives and 2 African American senators—Hiram R. Revels and Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi—who sat in the U.S. Congress.
But Black political power was short-lived. Northern politicians grew increasingly conciliatory to the white South, so that by 1872 virtually all leaders of the Confederacy had been pardoned and were again able to vote and hold office.
By means of economic pressure and the terrorist activities of violent anti-Black groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, most African Americans were kept away from the polls. By 1877, when Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew the last federal troops from the South, Southern whites were again in full control. No African American was to serve in the U.S. Congress for three decades after the departure of George H. White of North Carolina in 1901.
The rebirth of white supremacy in the South was accompanied by the growth of enforced “racial” separation. Starting with Tennessee in 1870, all the Southern states reenacted laws prohibiting marriage between Blacks and whites. They also passed Jim Crow laws segregating Blacks and whites in almost all public places.
By 1885 most Southern states had officially segregated their public schools. Moreover, in 1896, in upholding a Louisiana law that required the segregation of passengers on railroad cars, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson established the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
In the post-Reconstruction years, African Americans received only a small share of the increasing number of industrial jobs in Southern cities. And relatively few rural African Americans in the South owned their own farms, most remaining poor sharecroppers heavily in debt to white landlords. The largely urban Northern African American population fared little better. The jobs they sought were given to European immigrants. In search of improvement, many African Americans migrated westward.
SO we are able to see the foundation of white privilege and Black suppression as it started and continued through post-civil war.
Next week we look at Black lives since their supposed freedom.
Let’s finish this week with this thought that is relevant even today…and matches our 2nd Principle
“Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.” Frederick Douglas