The work of self-awareness…

The majority of my work takes place around transitions:  changing jobs, losing weight, loss of loved ones, exploring faith. All of these journeys start with a transition of thought. We have to examine how we perceive our experiences in these areas. This is the first step in making any changes, especially lasting changes, going forward.

This work can be uncomfortable, especially when it’s new territory — territory you haven’t investigated before. Take racism, for instance.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded Christian. I take seriously the commands given to us by Jesus Christ, and the wording was simple; love God above all and love one another.

I have prided myself in being “color blind” and seeing us all as God’s children. After all, aren’t we all the same in His eyes? However, I’ve come to realize this may be a very small view of the world we live in.

By being “color blind” I have discovered I may have been selling God short. He created all things, all people, and all the colors people come in. To not acknowledge our differences is to miss out on the things that make each of us unique.

We are unique…on purpose

Psalm 139 speaks to how we are uniquely knit together by God in the womb. Once upon a time, I washed right over that wording. Mostly because I am not a knitter and I didn’t really understand it’s importance. But, I do have friends who knit and when asked about their process of knitting, here’s what a friend of mine shared:

When I decide on a project I usually have someone special in mind. I consider them every step of the way. From the color and texture of the yarn I pick to the size of the knitting needles I am going to use.

I think of how they will use what I am creating. It’s something I want them to touch often and think of me when they do. I want my end product to hold a special place in their hearts like they hold in mine.

I had never thought of knitting in those terms.

If that’s how knitters look at and consider their projects, with a lot of thoughtful planning, doesn’t it stand that God did the same with each of us? And the color of our skin being one of those choices He makes, doesn’t it do a disservice to our creator to not acknowledge this particular part of our design?

Once I was able to view this small piece in a new light, I started to be able to dissect some of my other pre-conceived thoughts about race. I was surprised at how many of these thoughts I had.

A hard pill to swallow

I went from thinking and believing that I was totally unaffected by racism to realizing I’ve had little to no exposure to other races in my lifetime to even begin making that assumption.

Having been raised in an upper-middle-class, predominately white suburban neighborhood, the majority of the black friends I do have are similar to me; educated, affluent, and well-spoken.

So, other than the color of our skin, there isn’t much difference, much diversity to speak of. This doesn’t give me much room to determine if I have racist thoughts or tendencies because truly, I’ve never had to ask myself the harder questions. Until lately, anyway.

So what if you are finding yourself in a similar boat?

After dissecting my world view, and taking a good hard look at myself and my limited reality, I realized I may just have some racism in my thoughts and in my heart. And for a moment, this realization stopped me in my tracks. Now what? That’s the question that has been looming in my head for the last few weeks.

I was feeling upset with myself, guilty even.

First, I wanted to put away the thoughts because my definition of a racist was so vulgar, so brutal. I do not see myself as a hateful, hurtful person. And I still don’t. The first place I had to start was to learn more about the very definition of racism and how it fits for me.

Where to begin

I started my new education by reading books that helped me better define what racism is and what it looks like in action.

For me, it didn’t take many chapters before I could admit that perhaps some of my thinking leaned towards some superiority. Meaning that I’ve only seen things through “white” eyes and therefore I thought everyone saw things from a similar vantage point.

Stopping for a moment and trying to step into another’s shoes was incredibly eye-opening. And though I may not have shared experiences with a black woman, I can have empathy for our different experiences once I acknowledged our experiences might be different in the first place.

Now what?

The more I read, the more I watch, the more I observe and acknowledge, the more I am asking, “what do I do now?”

Now that I have this knowledge, what am I supposed to do with it? How do I change myself? How do I become a better neighbor, friend, ally?

This is all very uncomfortable, and I am yearning for the comfort I had before all this awareness. Then it dawned on me. This, too, is a transition period.

Transitions take time

I will have to explore more and identify the tapes I’ve played my entire life and unravel them. I will probably experience a whole gambit of emotions. Similar to the emotions I experienced when I lost my parents and had to learn to stand on my own in this world, or when I realized holding a lot of extra weight was not serving me well.

There is always grieving in times of transition. Feelings of despair, discomfort, even desire to play the Ostrich and hide our heads in the sand are not abnormal.

I encourage you to take it slowly and give yourself some grace

You don’t have to make all the changes at once. Just taking an inventory and becoming aware of thoughts you might not even know you have is a huge step.

Sit in the phase of self-discovery for a bit. Maybe spend some time educating yourself through books or discussions with others exploring similar topics. And find ways to take a moment for self-care; pray, listen to music, journal.

And if you find you would like to explore more but don’t want to take the steps alone, you may want to explore coaching for this transition. Like all transitions, the journey ahead may be difficult, and having a partner to walk beside you may make the steps a little easier to navigate.

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