The holidays can bring with it some interesting conversations.
At home in Mississippi, I found myself in a deep ravine over whether we should judge one another or not.
One of my nieces was convinced, based on Scripture, that we shouldn’t under any circumstances. I agreed Scripture does in fact say “judge not,” but suggested that the second verse — “For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” — indicated to me it is how we judge that’s important. If when we judge, be fair and compassionate.
I then recalled the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. He told her all she’d ever done but he didn’t condemn her. He accepted her just the way she was.
Indeed, it was clear to me that not only had he made a judgment, he’d also forgiven her. In offering her “living” water, he was giving her a second chance to make things right.
I was reminded of our talk, which veered into all sorts of directions, the other day listening to recent news that Ellen DeGeneres, who’s openly gay, believed Kevin Hart deserved a second chance, too.
Hart, you may or may not recall, was condemned after old homophobic tweets surfaced the day after we learned he’d been tapped to host this year’s Oscars.
After offering an apology, the comedian stepped down as host.
DeGeneres, I learned, not only called the academy and asked that Hart be reinstated as the host, she encouraged the comic to reconsider his decision to step down and said that by appearing on the broadcast, he would show “sophistication, class, hilarity and you growing as a person.”
Hart apologized if his remarks hurt people and said he “didn’t have a homophobic bone” in his body.
Here’s the problem with that. Some in the LGBTQ community aren’t buying it.
Atlantan Craig Washington, a gay activist, called the comedian’s apology “insincere, defensive, passive-aggressive and lacking accountability.”
“There has been far too much enabling of homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic acts by powerful people of all races,” Washington said. “While I believe in forgiveness and the possibility of personal growth and redemption, Kevin Hart’s responses indicate an arrogant, ‘get-over-it’ stance. Words can wound. Words can kill by damaging the self-worth of those targeted and/or inciting and justifying hatred, hostility and violence perpetrated by others.”
I don’t doubt words can kill. Gay adolescents, sadly, are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, a new report in JAMA Pediatrics shows. Transgender youths were at highest risk, nearly six times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers.
One researcher was quoted as saying that many LGBT youths have trouble accepting who they are because of how others see them.
And so I understand why Hart’s words were so painful and wrongheaded. You could assume he apologized because he got caught with his foot in his mouth, but who can say for sure?
If you’re among those unwilling to forgive him, who find yourself struggling to make that leap, ask yourself, can I love enough to forgive even the unforgivable?
Eighteen years ago, when my sister was murdered, I had to ask that hard question. To this day, her husband hasn’t sought my forgiveness, but I can tell you with a certainty, I’ve forgiven him.
When I was growing up, my mother used to sing a song that went something like this:
“Shine the light from heaven on my soul/ If You find anything that shouldn’t be/ Take it out and strengthen me/ ‘Cause I wanna be right, I wanna be saved/ I wanna be whole.”
Much later, I’d read a similar sentiment in Psalm 139:23-24 that says “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
You don’t even have to be Christian to start there, but if you do, you’d be surprised the peace it will bring if you’re honest with yourself.
Now for a confession and, well, a judgment, too.
I’m not a big fan of Kevin Hart or the Oscars. I seldom watch the show. As for Hart, it’s my humble opinion that his brand of comedy is silliness. Tiffany Haddish is funny. Steve Harvey is funny. Kevin Hart isn’t.
Having said that, here’s where I think DeGeneres’ critics are right. She doesn’t get to decide for the rest of us — gay or otherwise — if we forgive Hart.
Only we can do that, but we’d better decide. And when we weigh the wrongs of others, we’d better be fair and compassionate because when it’s our turn, how we judge will determine how the final judge will judge each of us.
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