FORGIVE YOURSELF by Rector Chris Girata
FORGIVE YOURSELF was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, #21 | October 11, 2019
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
This moment came after an incredibly heated period in Dallas history. After fatally shooting Mr. Jean in his own apartment, Ms. Guyger was tried for murder. This story rippled across the country at a vulnerable moment in our collective history when racial relations are fragile, and the reactions to the forgiveness reflected that fragility. For some, the forgiveness reflected the incredible grace of God, and was shared through conversations, social media posts, and more. Yet for others, the reaction to the moment of forgiveness indicated a weakness in our ignorance and lack of honesty around issues of race.
"the suicide rate in the U.S. has grown by more than 33% since 1999 to the highest levels since World War II"
I acknowledge that this moment of forgiveness and the collective reaction indicates that there is much work to do, but I am not qualified to speak on its weighty ripples. Instead, the moment I found so provocative for our time is in the final words Judge Kemp offered Ms. Guyger. “None of us are worthy,” Kemp said. “Forgive yourself.”
We live at a time when guilt and shame run rampant. People are so disconnected to one another that the relational anchors we all require aren’t there to sustain us when we need them most. Among many statistics that show this disconnection to be true, perhaps the statistic that speaks most to our ultimate desperation is the increase in suicides across the country. According to a Time article in June of this year, the suicide rate in the U.S. has grown by more than 33% since 1999 to the highest levels since World War II. When we are disconnected from one another, succumbing to the fear of true vulnerability, bad things happen.
What we witnessed in that courtroom plays against the cultural pressure of judgment and criticism, leaning into the simple beauty of grace. The words of forgiveness and love spoken to a convicted murderer were not earned, nor were they deserved. Instead, Mr. Jean, Judge Kemp, and others know their own imperfection and know they are forgiven, not because they earned or deserved it, but because they are loved by God unconditionally.
I extend this same idea to our culture. I am not naïve enough to sweep concerns about race and culture under the rug of grace. What we wrestle with in our nation is serious and deserves proper, honest attention and work. However, the work we need to do in this country to heal our brokenness cannot be done by us alone. We need more than our own effort and energy. We need forgiveness.
Every one of us carries the weight of guilt and shame. I see the fruit of guilt and shame every time people are closeminded, unreasonably defensive, and quick to judge. The pain of our guilt is a poison that we cannot cure without the unconditional grace we receive from outside ourselves.
The pain of our guilt is a poison that we cannot cure without the unconditional grace we receive from outside ourselves.
As the world continues to debate and scrutinize this most recent Dallas courtroom moment, and as attention will inevitably pivot to the next, remember that work needs to be done and none of us are without responsibility. And yet, forgiveness starts with us. You are loved by God, no exceptions. Now, forgive yourself and be healed.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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