Oprah Winfrey quotes the great Maya Angelou as giving her a piece of wisdom that revolutionized her life. While the quote has various forms, the one that seems to me to be the most helpful is this one: “I did what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” As Winfrey says, that piece of wisdom allows each of us to acknowledge the mistakes that we all have made in life, but to do so in a way that empowers us to move on from those mistakes, choosing to live in different and better ways.
And I find that to be helpful as a white man in his early 60’s, living through these times when finally, the voices of various folks are penetrating the bubble within which I have lived—the voices of people of color, of women, of the LGBTQI community. To be clear, I realize that those voices have been there to hear my entire lifetime if I had chosen to listen, and I was wrong not to listen, but now, I am hearing what it has been like to walk through life as if on eggshells, with opportunities limited, afraid to the person you are. Hearing those voices is making me confront the mistakes that I have made, but hearing those voices is also empowering me to do better as I listen more and learn and grow in my understanding.
It is challenging to hear what various folks have to say, but I have to tell you that it is also freeing. For as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32)—free from clinging to a past that left too many out, free to imagine a future in which, in the words of John Lennon, “the world will live as one.”
–Pastor Don Steele