“i make really good first impressions” is a joke i tell a lot.
my friends roll their eyes,
new friends laugh awkwardly.
at this point even i am curious if it is a joke.
it is no secret i have trouble sticking to the rules,
to adhering to the unwritten rules of society.
for awhile i wondered if something was wrong with me,
i should go see a doctor kind of wrong with me.
i’ve learned since those days that i don’t have a problem with social comprehension,
but instead the implied rules without having ever questioned them.
i don’t understand why i must leave a party,
say goodbye to every. single. person.
when it is much faster, more efficient, and less disruptive to “irish goodbye” it.
alas, i’ve learned to pick my battles,
and i hug people goodbye against my will.
these rules generally seem to make people happy.
they make people feel at ease when everyone is following their social cue.
whenever i open my mouth the usual responses are:
a “you can’t say that”
a “you’re ridiculous”
a “don’t let them hear you say that”
i’m no stranger to these remarks.
the awkward side glances to others in the group,
the shifting of bodies in order to find comfort when someone has made the situation uncomfortable.
most things roll off me like water on a duck,
but so often i’ve heard this response to my deepest revealings of trauma:
“it will help you to forgive and move on.”
a lot of assumptions in that sentence:
1. that i have yet to move on.
2. that “moving on” looks like dropping the subject.
3. my healing is dependent on silence.
4. forgiveness is a one time ordeal.
forgiveness is a choice.
one made every day, sometimes hourly, sometimes every ten minutes.
it is an acknowledgment of a trespass against you,
and a perpetual notion that you will not see the person simply as their wrongdoing.
this is not to say that we cannot take this anger and turn it into something productive.
anger can drive us to do powerful things.
what we have to decide is what kind of impact we want to have.
we can take very personal pain and allow it to fuel the fire in us to make change.
just because a subject matter is personal does not mean we are exempt from talking about it.
i am not only a suicide attempt survivor, but also a survivor of suicide.
i had a brother who took his own life.
friends, students, acquaintances.
does that mean i need to “forgive and move on” in silence?
i believe it makes me uniquely qualified to speak on the subject matter of mental illness.
i have experienced spiritual trauma.
i’ve been banned, shunned, and vilified by church members.
ones i worked with, ones i did ministry with, ones i called friends.
i have forgiven my personal experience,
but that does not mean i will be silent in the wake.
i refuse to see anyone else experience what i experienced,
and so that means speaking up against respected leaders.
it means i will call for action to the church and the church.
it means speaking truth to power,
because what is done in darkness will be brought to light.
it does not make you “obsessed” or “stuck in the past”
for speaking up against misconduct, abuse, or trauma.
the “devil may care” attitude i was born with makes speaking up easier than not.
still, sometimes i am insecure about using my voice.
if someone is uncomfortable with the truth you have to tell,
that is on them.
and most likely, some responsibility lies in their hands,
and guilt on their conscience.
it is not your burden to carry.
i hope through whatever storm you’ve experienced,
you came out the other side stronger and bolder than ever.
in the words of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
“the choice isn’t what i’m breathing in, it’s what i’m exhaling.”
let’s exhale boldness, truth, grace, and justice.
and always love.