Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Responsibility

White Privilege Unfurled

On the day I was born, I received unearned privileges not available to everyone. Equally true, my life has been difficult because of unearned privileges available to men but not to me.

I was born White and Female. This complicates everything: gender and race; gender and politics; gender and academia; gender and the church; gender and role expectations; gender and power; gender and social events. Sometimes I’m welcomed with open arms even though I often experience something less than full welcome into the fold of privilege.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about white male privilege. I’ve spent considerably less time thinking about my white privilege. It’s easy to say I was born white, so it isn’t my fault. Which, of course, it is not.

Yet I know I’ve been the recipient of privileges friends and strangers of color do not receive. Many privileges are invisible to me. They’re the climate in which I live. I don’t need to think about them when I get up in the morning, or when I appear in a check-out line. More to the point, I count on them daily.

Today the USA is roiling, internally and externally, from a wound that has festered from the beginning. The assumption and reality of white privilege.

Here’s what I’m doing to clarify for myself what my white privilege looks like. Not yours. For me, this includes awareness of male privilege. Sometimes white male privilege only; sometimes all males.

For starters, I’ve located a website offering free material as well as formal leadership training (not free). I found two downloadable papers that will help me personally. Not simply with self-understanding, but with ideas about how I might change my daily habits as well as personal assumptions and goals.

Dr. Peggy McIntosh is the author of the papers and founder of The National SEED Project. In each paper she describes unpacking her own privilege. The papers include end notes in which she clarifies issues that arise when people begin to talk about privilege.

If you’re interested in knowing more, here are links to the website and two free downloadable papers.

Happy reading!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 August 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Unfurl

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 4 of 4

“We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them.”
“Forgiving happens in three stages: We rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us, we surrender our right to get even, and we wish that person well.”
Lewis Smedes in The Art of Forgiving (Moorings 1996)

I’ve never found public or required displays of forgiveness helpful. I’m relieved that Lewis Smedes makes this a personal issue. Neither my father’s presence nor his acceptance of my forgiveness is necessary.

And so, given Smedes’ three stages above and the work I’ve already done, including naming what my father did and why it’s blameworthy, I’ve already forgiven my father.

  • What I discovered about Dad’s humanity was heartbreaking; he and I were more similar than I like to admit. I feel compassion for him every time I think about his life—not just as a child, but also as an adult struggling with his own trauma. He, too, was a survivor of childhood abuse. Sadly, he never sought healing.
  • Sometimes I made small, symbolic attempts to get even with Dad. These included behaviors that helped me feel ‘better’ or ‘safer’ around him, even though I didn’t. I maintained my distance physically and emotionally while seeming not to be distancing him. I thought I was inflicting small punishments on him, getting even for his punishments of me. I was not. Today I have no desire to get even with him.
  • Finally, though Dad died several years ago, I still wish him well. How so? I don’t know what life is like after death. I do, however, know that if our Creator offers ways to grow into life after death, I wish my father well. Especially as the daughter who is most like he was.

From the cross, Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

He didn’t forgive his tormentors directly. He left that up to God. Instead, I see throughout the gospel narratives that Jesus understands the humanity of every person with whom he deals.

I also notice Jesus’ refusal to try to get even with those who opposed him. He spoke hard truth, sometimes with anger. Yet he didn’t grasp at his right to get even. Not in life or in death.

Finally, Jesus wept and prayed over Jerusalem, despite what he suffered from the hands of those in power who thought they knew better. They beat him, mocked him, paraded him in public as an ‘example,’ and hung him up to die. Still, he wishes them well.

Though Jesus doesn’t forgive his tormentors directly, he prays for them from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the prayer I pray for my father.

I’m not responsible for offering him forgiveness. That’s God’s business. I am, however, responsible for the three steps at the top of this post if I mean business about forgiving him.

I’ve forgiven my Dad. Nonetheless, I can’t say this is a done deal. Forgiveness isn’t an event. It’s a process with a beginning and openness to whatever comes next. Childhood trauma has a way of bringing things to the surface when the learner is ready for more healing.

God forgives each of us daily. This is an act of stunning creation, not just for us individually, but for the families and communities in which we live. I want to be part of this ongoing spirit of forgiveness because I want to be part of God’s creative act, not part of the destructive problem.

And so I remain open to forgiving my Dad as often as needed.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 April 2017

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 3

“Forgiving does not remove our scars any more than a funeral takes away all of our grief.”
“We cannot forgive a wrong unless we first blame the person who wronged us.”
Lewis Smedes, in The Art of Forgiving, Moorings 1996

Denial. I lived with it daily. Not simply denial about my father, but about precisely what he had done to me. In a dark room in my mind I still, in knee-jerk fashion, hadn’t given up bearing ‘my’ share of responsibility for the nature of our relationship.

I experienced it as unrelenting warfare. Yet if you’d asked me about this even three years ago, I would have protected my father by denying the truth. All it took was an add-on phrase or two like these:

  • I wasn’t always an easy child.
  • Sometimes I deserved what I got.
  • Sometimes I asked for it by being stubborn.
  • I know I’m not entirely guilt-free.

All intended to soften the truth and point away from my father as the responsible adult party. If I didn’t, I feared no one would listen to me. I had to remind them that I know I’m not perfect, either.

One of the most difficult exercises of my adult life was to blame my father. Not generally, but specifically, and in writing. With clear reasons, and naming the reality for what it was. I worked on this during the summer of 2014, using Lewis Smedes’ book, The Art of Forgiving, as a guide to rethinking my relationship to Daddy (the term my father required us to use when addressing him).

According to Smedes, I couldn’t forgive unless I first blamed my father for what he had done–concretely, specifically, and with reasons that held water. I had never blamed him in that way. I’d spent all my life trying to share the blame. That had to go.

Forgiveness has a shape. It isn’t a feel-good exercise driven by required words or even attitudes of reconciliation. Nor is it intended to deflect my attention from the Big Stuff truth. What happened to me changed my life in negative ways that are not outweighed by any positives I might name as ‘balancing’ factors.

What, then, do I mean when I say, ‘I blame Daddy’? My denial was so deep that it took several weeks to clarify this. Here it is in short form. You can read more here and here.

I blame you, Daddy, for

  • Willfully, intentionally and without coercion from anyone, using your power in ways that abused my body, my spirit, my mind, my emotions, my developing sexuality, and my overall identity/sense of self
  • Abusing your power as my father, as an adult male, and as an ordained clergyman
  • Not knowing or loving me as I was and am, beginning from early childhood and continuing throughout my adult years
  • Creating an atmosphere of intimidation at home, not an atmosphere of safety

Thanks for listening!

To be continued (one more post) . . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2017
Daily Prompt: Denial

Going to Seminary | Part 12

Wedding Pic edited, FRASER_S_0011

I’m looking at a 58-page single-spaced paper completed in summer 1974. Authors: D and Elouise. Title: A Biblical View of Women.

Immediate thoughts:

  • I can’t believe we did this!
  • I’m so glad we did this!
  • I will never do anything like this again—not for any amount of money!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Hole in my Heart

There’s a hole in my heart called Mom
Three letters missing from
my childhood alphabet soup

I run on empty
Search for something Read the rest of this entry »

Fashioned for Freedom | From an Old Soul

Just because we’re designed for freedom, that doesn’t mean it comes easily or naturally. George MacDonald is thinking about himself and his struggle to be free of his dire darkness, his fear and doubt. He got me thinking about my struggles. My comments follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Marriage | Photos 1968-69


Christmas in Savannah, 1968

Time for another show and tell! I’ve gone through hundreds of old photos lately, and have a few choice shots to show you. I promise not to do this every time you turn around. I also promise to do it again…. Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Contempt | Part 1

Contempt – intrusive, ever-present, almost impossible to pin down.  But that’s exactly why I need to talk about it.

After several false starts, Read the rest of this entry »

About You and Human Trafficking | Truth #1

Did you know it’s National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month?*   For the last five years I’ve worked as an educator, speaker and volunteer in this area.  At first I felt overwhelmed by the complexity of this global reality.  Yet in the end, it isn’t overwhelming.

Why not? Read the rest of this entry »

Toasting the Blame Documents

Leftovers.  Sometimes they’re wonderful.  Then there are the other times.  They just sit there in the refrigerator waiting for me to do something with them.  In reviewing my blog posts this past year, I couldn’t overlook unfinished business I still have with my father.

It isn’t as though I’ve been twiddling my thumbs. Read the rest of this entry »

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