Empathy: The Power of Greater Vision

 

greater vision

I wrote a piece recently about hoping empathy will rise in this New Year, looks like it is beginning with my own heart. Due to all the exposure of racially motivated violence in the past couple of years, I have heard many white people saying they didn’t realize black people still had it so bad. I have also had many white men say to me that they are just realizing that male white privilege is not just a mythical politically motivated assertion. Initially, my reaction to those having these epiphanies was – C’mon really.

I am beginning to see how when you are immersed in something from birth, it is hard to recognize it as unnatural, foreign, or harmfully infectious. I have advocated for the better treatment of women through writing and through speaking directly to men. I have spoken to women about their immeasurable value, above and beyond physical beauty. However in all that I have come to understand, I know that I have not fully grasped the depth and scope of the mental and physical impact centuries of oppression has had on women. By accepting that fact, hopefully I have increased my ability to hear and understand my sisters unto deeper and more fulfilling relationships.

When you consider that from the founding of America, most of the information propagated in this society from the imagery, writings, entertainment, public policy, education, and so forth has been generated out the oppressive source. Our social environment is so thoroughly contaminated with certain biases and prejudice ideologies that it is almost impossible not to normalize some of it in your psyche. That goes for those who are oppressed, as well as the oppressors. This is true in every instance where America has historically practiced injustice and inequality.

Our moral compass has to align with an influence higher than just the survival instinct, if we are to reach the promise land of liberty and justice for all. Creatures like jackals and snakes know how to survive, but it has been ordained for man to have Life. To “have”, is defined as to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement. Every person is entitled to the freedom and means to realize the potential of their being. Anytime someone purposely hinders another person’s progression in this sacred right it is reprehensible. We have to respect everyone else’s entitlement to live as we do our own. That is why the golden rule is so vital to humanity. The commandment of GOD, to love our neighbor as ourselves, invokes the power of empathy. The power of empathy gives us the ability of greater vision through the use of many lenses. This why hate blinds us but love shows us the way.

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Scale Social Walls for a Better View

the wall

If you believe that all men are created equal, then you have to take a look at the outside influences that have shaped the differences we see between people in our society. It’s easy to just label people based on what you see today, however the current view of a person has to come from a perspective that takes their history into consideration. Once you begin to understand the historical socio-economic factors surrounding the different groups in our society, you get a better understanding of the disparities that exist today. You also get a better picture of who the people are. You may find that some of the people you thought were inferior are actually pretty tenacious and some of the people you thought were exceptional had unfair advantages.

Consider the fact that the police force in this country, from its inception, was established to sustain the viability of commerce. The interest of our law enforcement agencies has always been mercantile first. Once you understand this it becomes clear who the officers are on patrol to protect and serve. This also shines light on the police profiling that has taken place in our society since the formation of law enforcement agencies. Commerce has and still holds low-cost labor as the key to maximum profitability. The ability of businesses to control the workforce ensures a level of control over profitability. The demand for a low cost workforce in this country has always been filled systematically by Blacks and immigrants. As such, controls on this targeted population have always been the focal point of the police force. Any attempts by Blacks and immigrants to organize, protest, or riot as a result of unfair or unsafe work conditions have always been deterred forcibly by the police force. This relationship between the police departments and those that fit the profile of low-income earners has eroded to what we see today and it is all still backed by commerce with its great influence in our government and court systems.

Civility in a society is determined by the law that governs. When you live in a country that has a history of laws rooted in inequality for its people, then the civil treatment of people becomes relative to the subject. This explains why the court system in our country has scales that aren’t balanced in determining justice for all. Murder is defined as the deliberate killing of another person. When a country has historically dehumanized a particular ethnic group by racism, it follows that this country may not rule it murder when this dehumanized ethnic group is killed deliberately; especially when killed by government employees. This is what I believe Dr. King was referring to when he said, “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide”. He used Nazi Germany as the case study.

What we are witnessing in this country is a continuation of what has been practiced from its founding. The insinuation that the US was once great and that this country has strayed from the virtue that was present at its founding is a sentiment lodged in the heart of the privileged and reflects the intrinsic inequality in our society that divides the “US” from them. The solution is a government with a true intent to establish equality for all and federal enforcement of the laws and policies to make it real for all people.

Fire is difficult to produce where there is no friction. The social practices that spark rioting in our society must be condemned in the same fervor at which rioting itself is condemned. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” I don’t condone rioting any more than I condone the marginalizing of the lives of one group to promote the wellbeing of another. Until all the people of this world come to the understanding that we all collectively make up one body, we will remain divided to the endangerment of human life as a whole.

A Time For The Ordinary

black leaders

I help lead a non-profit called National Builders Guild aka NBG. One of the missions of the organization is mentoring and training young black men to be leaders in their community from a base of high ethics.  As part of my responsibilities, I interview candidates that aspire to join and check their character references. A few weeks back, I was given a list of references for a young man by the name of Elijah Shuler. He was 22 years old and had done some time in prison but had been recently released and was looking to make a change. While in process of checking his references, he came up missing. His mother said he left for work one evening and after a couple of days he had not returned home and there had been no communication. She contacted the authorities, hoping that they would assist her in finding her son.
After week two, and hearing no word from the authorities, friends and family began to pass out flyers in the surrounding neighborhood. A lead came in from the flyers on an abandoned car that fit the description of the one Elijah drove. The mother and a close friend of the family went to the site to check it out. Upon confirming that it was Elijah’s car, they notified the police. In the meantime, the mother and friend inquired with the residents near where the car was found as to how long it had been there. The car had been there for two weeks. Near the house where the car was parked, there was an extremely foul order coming from the woods. The friend helping Elijah’s mother asked the home owner if he could go investigate the smell. An hour had passed since the initial call for police and no authorities had arrived on the scene. As you have probably assumed, the foul odor was Elijah’s decaying body that had been dumped in the woods. Considering his pass and the company he used to keep, it is suspected that his past caught up to him in a horrible way. All this reeks of yet another scene of a black on black crime. Upon finding the body of Elijah Shuler, the residents began calling the police themselves. By accounts of people present, it took an additional two hours before the authorities finally arrived.
Black lives first have to matter to black people. There needs to be more gathering at the dinner table than gathering at the court house. There needs to be more rallying in the living room than in the streets. The black race does not need another “Great one” to lead them. Instead, the ordinary black man needs to love himself.  He needs to love himself in the black people around him. He needs to love his sister, cherish his wife and daughter, and honor his mother. He needs to love his brother, reverence his father, and raise his sons. He needs to focus his energy on casting down the enemies within, the self-hate, the low self-esteem, the ignorance and the false identity given to him from his oppressors. He needs to embrace the wisdom and counsel left by the “Great ones” that have already passed through. He needs to return to the universal laws of the Creator and become identified again with his divine roots as an offspring of God the Father through Yeshua the Messiah. Then the enemy outside will be of no consequence, then and only then will he be Free At Last.

Be Of Good Courage

It is natural to experience disappointment when our hopes are crushed. Even when we have understood all along from past experience that it was likely we would be let down. The next thing we realize is that our hearts are heavy and our joy is diminished. This is why the word of God instructs us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts with all diligence.

“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.”

One of the key ways to guard our hearts is to be careful when placing hope. I Corinthians 15:19 says,

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If our hope does not extend beyond the physical life that we now live then it is guaranteed that we will be miserable in life because some prayers and hopes will be fulfilled on the other side. Herein is the patience of the saints of God. It reminds me of the two Disciples of Christ that were walking down the road away from Jerusalem where their hopes had been crushed by the governing bodies of their day which had just wrongfully crucified Jesus. The two disciples had hoped that the man who was killed would be the one to redeem Israel. When the man was crucified, so were their hopes for the redemption of Israel. While still traveling away from Jerusalem the two disciples were reproved by the resurrected redeemer Jesus Christ for not trusting in what the scriptures had promised regardless of how things appeared. This account is recorded in Luke 24.

In this life we will witness great evil and injustice but we can’t allow it to steal our hopes that in the very end of this age God will set all things right. We must shield our hearts with this hope that our joy might remain full and we don’t become sad and down cast like the two disciples leaving Jerusalem.  It is the plan of Satan to overthrow your hope with evil to the end that your hearts become hardened and you lose faith in God’s sovereignty. When we doubt God’s sovereignty we are apt to take things into our own hands and Satan knows that produces death. We guard our hearts to keep seeds of doubt, unbelief, fear, hate and other evils from being sown into it. Let the words in John 16:33 as spoken by Jesus before His crucifixion always strengthen you.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Freedom without Liberty

I have found often what the world promotes as freedom tends to bondage. For instance, most people consider freedom the ability of an individual to do whatever he or she wants. If you take a closer look at that you will find that it is very limiting. An individual can only experience or realize what they know of or what they are aware of. That’s like someone giving you a pair of roller skates and telling you that you are free to explore the world. Another example is like giving you an airplane and telling you to go see the world with no manual or pilot training. Your freedom does not extend beyond your knowledge because you cannot enter, fully experience or partake of that which you are ignorant of and don’t understand. In order to become free you have to be educated and empowered. Our Heavenly Father has given us examples to consider for coming to a true understanding of life and the universe He has created. Consider raising a child. When are children able to be free by the world’s definition?…Not at birth, a new-born would die on its own…Not as a toddler nor for that matter as an adolescent. In fact if we equate freedom with independence then we are never really free because we are all dependent on each other. Only God is self-existent! Let that marinate. We are not even free to know what freedom is until we are taught. The devil, the great deceiver, is still up to his tricks.

The wicked forces of this world have deceived people into believing that they are free by empowering them to indulge the appetites of their flesh without restraint. Freedom is sold as having all the food you want, all the sex you want, all the libations you want, all the material things you can gather and so on. This does not lead to freedom; it leads to addiction which is essentially bondage. I know I am throwing lint on some lollipops but many of us have been suckers for too long. How free is the obese person to enjoy an active life style? How free is the sex addict to enjoy the benefits of a committed relationship? How free is the drug addict to enjoy a stable life? How free is the materialistic person to enjoy lasting contentment? In fact, the easiest person to control is the one given to their appetites? This definition of freedom is extremely visible in the mind-set of American citizens. Many Americans I encounter consider even the practice of healthy restraint an infraction of their freedom. Try talking to a smoker about quitting or smoke free public environments. Trying talking to an overweight person about their food selections or portion control. Try talking to a gay rights advocate about the sustainability of the human race. Every individual has to exercise some restraint or freedom deteriorates collectively as well as individually.

Everyone with a valid driver’s license can seem to understand the importance of traffic laws like speed limits, stop signs, yield signs, and traffic signals. All traffic laws are intended to keep us safe on the roads. What if when driving, in the name of freedom and individual rights, we all decided to disregard traffic laws along with every other person on the road and just did our own thing.  It would be catastrophic. It is easy to see the relationship between how we drive on the roads and its impact on others on the roads but it takes a little more consideration to understand the impact of how we live our lives in relation to others in our community and the world around us. You don’t live your life based on traffic law but you do live your life based on moral law that is unless you are an immoral person. We exercise restraint on ourselves through our own morality and values. Restraint is exercised on the general public through law enforcement. Any mature adult can see the importance of laws. The problem occurs when laws conflict with our appetites and desires. Who is qualified to tell us what we can and cannot have or what we need and do not need or what we can and cannot do? Governments all over the world have proven themselves to be unqualified to handle this task, including the USA. In America we have a history of employing the policy of ignorance for control and restricting empowerment to certain races and classes of people. As I said earlier, for freedom to be realized it has to be combined with education and empowerment. The governments of this world can support our freedom but they cannot secure our freedom.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

This is a reference to Lucifer and his hordes.

Ephesians 4:8 says, “Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

John 8:36 says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

John 8:31-32 says, “And Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Jesus has won our freedom by triumphing over the powers of spiritual wickedness. As I stated earlier, your freedom only extends as far as your knowledge, so Satan’s plan was to keep us in darkness, ignorant of the truth but Jesus came as a bright shining light and exposed the devil as well as opened our eyes to the truths that make us free. The life of Jesus is an example to follow.

1 Peter 4:1-3 says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.

Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

The only way we truly become free as a people or nation is by submitting our will to the Lord. I know this is counter-intuitive but it is written in Luke 9:23-25;

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

The Lord is the only one qualified to govern our lives because He alone created our lives. I am not advocating an anti-government mentality. I am advocating that we do all we can to ensure first that our individual morality and values reflect those of the Lord and secondly that our governing bodies reflect the same. It is only then that every person will be in a position to experience true freedom.