The Transformative Power of Reconciliation

Freedom Crossroads

Dr. Spencer A. Murray

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Consider this: In any authentic relationship — most importantly, the relationship with ‘self’ — the concept of reconciliation must be present in order for that relationship to grow. Those who are in healthy, growing relationships know this to be true. Inherent in that reconciliation, must be a sincere acknowledgment of wrongs that were said or done.

Oftentimes, that might come in the form of an apology, an admission of faulty thinking, or other actions that indicate a capacity to be humble, vulnerable, and selfless. There are times when you have to apologize for the pain of the other, even when you don’t see yourself as the cause of that pain.

Reconciliation is more about love, compassion, empathy, and forgiveness than it is about pointing fingers and placing blame.

A testament to the power of reconciliation comes in knowing that if it doesn’t take place, people can go on for years harboring resentments and grievances that could very well affect the rest of their lives. Hell, some people are living under the same roof with a spouse or partner, walking past each other day in and day out, both being victimized by words unsaid because no one wants to be the first to start the healing process.

Once the process of reconciliation has started, you should never have to live your life in a constant state of contrition, continually apologizing for past missteps. What it does mean, however, is that both parties must begin to live their lives in a state of grace, compassion, and empathy for the other. It means that you allow self-reflection to be part of the process that causes you to question any prior learning that infected your thinking.

In the spirit of being transparent, let me provide a personal example. It’s only been within the last 5 years that I began to question what my indoctrination into “masculinity” has meant for women. I began to ask myself how that indoctrination showed up in my relationships. I reflected on my past actions, or inaction, that caused pain. I thought about how my male indoctrination produced a tendency to be aloof, indifferent, and self-absorbed. I thought about how, for so long, I absolved myself from taking responsibility for the tension in, or failure of, relationships. On a larger scale, I began to ask myself how I could sit by the wayside for so long, call myself a humanitarian, and remain silent about crimes against women, such as rape, sexual and domestic violence, objectification, and inequality. I began to wake up and change once I made the humbling admission to myself that it was the privilege of being male that allowed me to remain silent and not feel compelled to affect change. After all, I wasn’t perpetrating those crimes. And as long as I wasn’t the perpetrator, I could go on enjoying the privileges of being a man.

On the personal front, I began to see how my idea of ‘being a man’ crept into my relationships and wreaked havoc on my ability to be intimate.

Thankfully, and I do mean THANKFULLY, my sincere desire to change, coupled with honest self-reflection and the God-inspired capacity to reconcile my past with my present, prepared me for the healthy and joy-filled relationship I’m experiencing with my wife. I’ll never forget the day that my newfound awareness inspired me to apologize to Erica for all the pain she had endured in prior relationships. It would’ve been easy for me to say, “Well it wasn’t me! I didn’t do those things to you!” But my love, compassion, and empathy urged me to stand in the gap for every man that had ever lied, cheated, and dishonored her. The truth of the matter was that, at some point, I was that man. And in that moment, we were both able to release. We both cried and moved to another level of our relationship. That’s what reconciliation can do. That’s the power of reconciliation.

And so it goes for America. You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that our country is in dire need of reconciliation. I don’t desire to keep company with people — white, black, Christian, Muslim or otherwise — who aren’t committed to being or becoming aware of this need. I also realize that there are others who will read this and believe that this country is and has always been great, in no need of any type of reconciliation. To them I will ask that you read this post again, this time with your heart instead of your head.

Moreover, read this country’s history again, through the lens of a people that were historically oppressed. Compassion and reconciliation is often born out of a changing of the lens. My hope is that those who haven’t experienced the trauma and pain of people of color, will take a risk by reaching out a hand and offering reconciliation to those who have — whether you have personally caused that pain or not. I often think that many have trepidation about starting that conversation and don’t know where to start. To them I say this:

Transformative dialogue begins with the willingness to be vulnerable, transparent, and humble — coupled with a capacity to see beyond your whiteness, your maleness, or your religion. It’s risky business, but it’s a risk you’ll have to take.

You can start right where you are — at work, at church, in your community or home. My hope is that your risk won’t be in vain. But if it is, for humanity’s sake, keep risking! The risk is worth the reward. Only then can the real work of deconstructing every false idea of separation that you were taught, begin.

For those who are standing up and risking — regardless of your color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, identity, or political affiliation, I say “Keep standing and Keep risking!”

Martin Luther King Jr., in quoting the prophet Amos, talked about ‘justice rolling down like waters.’ The implication is that, what ‘rolls down’ must come from somewhere ‘on high.’ In order to wake up and stay woke; we’ve got to let justice roll down from our heads to our hearts, from our thinking to our actions. We can never lose sight of the fact that individual action affects the collective. It is clear that we can’t expect righteousness to roll down from our highest levels of government. So when justice, compassion, and reconciliation aren’t trickling down, we’ve got to ensure that it trickles up.

Educator | Consultant | Inclusive Minister | Conflict Transformation | Work Culture and Climate | Violence Prevention

Originally published at on August 29, 2017.