A Litany for Forgiveness for Prejudice

Based on the Writings of Howard Thurman

I.  Acknowledging Prejudice in the Human Condition

 

It lurks in the shadows, hidden from our vision;

It lurks in the shadows, often disguised with patronizing deeds;

It lurks in the shadows, maintaining our separation.

 

Unacknowledged in the past, we now invite you forth to our consciousness

The absence of examination, the absence of awareness

 Has kept the healing light of love at bay.

 

 Intellectually we understand you

 And abhor the inhumanity of your manifestation;

 Historically we are grateful for a gradual awakening

 To the need to break down barriers you create.

 

 Regulations prevent you from your abusive expression

 In a society awkwardly seeking wholeness;

 And in turn they shape our outer behavior

 Often forcing our inner thoughts into the shadows.

 

Reading:

Acknowledging the presence of prejudice in the human condition and in ourselves is an essential step toward wholeness.  In The Luminous Darkness, Howard Thurman tells us,

 

There is real spiritual growth in admitting that one’s life is not

blameless even as one is dedicated effectively to working for

the blameless life.                                                (p.52)

 

Response:

“I confess my own inner confusion as I look our upon the world….

            I confess my own share in the ills of the times.”

                                    Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart, p. 195

 

 

II. The Separation of the Human Family through Prejudice

 

We call forth images of times past.

Remembrances of our personal encounters with prejudice:

 

Playmates at school whom we could not or did not invite to our homes:

Groups of people in our society whose collective humanity we devalued;

 

Colleagues we sought for their work contributions but with whom we did not socialize;

Strangers we reflexively evaluated based on hand-me-down stereotypes;

 

We take this time to remember these encounters and all others…

      (Silence)

 

How often we acknowledge our common humanity on the surface;

While inwardly aligning with the status quo,

Seeking to be on the side of power and security.

Living this contradiction between our outer and inner states,

We hide prejudice in the shadows of our psyches.

 

Reading:

In The Luminous Darkness, Howard Thurman remind us the core of religious experience

is that,”…human life is one and all (individuals) are members one of another.”

(The Luminous Darkness, p. x)  This deep awareness of unity will bring us out

of the shadows into the light.

 

Always the sense of separateness that is an essential part of

Individual consciousness must be overcome even as it

Sustains and supports.  This is the crucial paradox in the

Achievement of an integrated personality as well as of an

Integrated society.   (Ibid.)

 

Response:

We are troubled…by the divisions that are within us, the

            deep conflicts in our own spirits which cause us to be at war

            within, which cause us to be a house divided against itself.

            This sense of inner conflict and division is a part of the larger

            conflict and division that exist among Your children

            everywhere….May we all be one family in Your presence

            living in Your world.     

                  Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, p. 80

 

 

III.   Seeking Unity

 

We desire to live the authentic life

To bring into the light that which is hidden

To integrate our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

 

Yet at times we choose to stand silently.

Uncomfortable with direct action,

We support but do not lead.

Other times we choose to sit.

Afraid to stand up for our beliefs,

We hope that others will act for us.

 

We desire to live the authentic life

With the Light of love and peace

Radiating to all from our hearts,

Unobscured by human walls of separation;

 

Our actions guided by the highest call

To alleviate the pain of individual suffering,

To restore unity to the human family.

 

 

Reading:

In The Search for Common Ground, Howard Thurman discusses his deep faith in

Humankind’s innate desire to come together in community, to be one human family:

 

At (our) moments of greatest despair (we are) instinctively

unwilling and perhaps unable to accept the contradictions

of (our lives) as final or ultimate.  Something  deep within

reminds (us) that the intent of the Creator of life and the

living substance is that (we) must live in harmony within

(ourselves) and with one another and perhaps with all of life.

(pp, 27-28)

 

 

Response:

Kindle Your light within me, that all my darkness may be clearly

            defined…

            Kindle Your light within me, O God, that Your glow may be

            spread over all my life…

            More and more, may Your light give radiance to my flickering

            candle, fresh vigor to my struggling intent, and renewal to

            flagging spirit.

                  Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart, p. 160

 

 

IV.   Asking for Forgiveness

 

With humility, O Creator, we seek Your forgiveness

For all the wrongs perpetrated against our brothers and sisters.

 

For all the times we

Looked but did not see,

Heard but did not listen,

Thought but did not act,

Talked but did not speak out,

And prayed but did not love;

 

For all the times we

Excluded  so as not to include,

ejected so as not to accept,

Harmed so as not to strengthen,

Avoided so as not to face,

And ignored so as not to validate;

 

For all the times we

Have set up walls of separation

In Your human family’

For all the times we

Have chosen domination rather than equality;

 

For all the times we

Have failed You in Your call to wholeness;

We present ourselves to You

With humility and deep regret

Asking Your forgiveness.

 

 

Reading:

We are reminded by Howard Thurman in Jesus and the Disinherited that we must also

seek forgiveness from the injured, those we have disinherited.  Yet it is by the grace of the   Creator that forgiveness can occur.

It is clear that before love can operate, there is the necessity for

forgiveness of injury perpetuated against a person by a group.  This

is the issue for the disinherited..(T)he answer is not simple.

Perhaps there is no answer that is completely satisfying from the

point of view of rational reflection.  Can the mouse forgive the cat

for eating him?  It does seem that Jesus dealt with every act of

forgiveness as one who was convinced that there is in every act of

injury an element that is irresponsible and irrational.  No evil deed—

and no good deed, either—was named by him as an expression of the

total mind of the doer…When all other means have been exhausted,

each in his own tongue whispers. “There is forgiveness with God”.

(pp. 107-108)

 

 

Response:

Forgive us, our Creator,

            For all the failures by which

            We have responded

            To Your love and Your truth.

            Keep our spirits tender

            And our minds and hearts

            Sensitive to You,

            That we may not spend our years

            Wandering in the darkness.

                        Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, p.124.

 

Concluding Prayer:

Dearest God, Creator of All,

We are aware of the vast responsibility which is ours for the common life.  In so many ways we have been silent when we should have spoken out.  We have withheld the hand when we should have extended it in grace and in companionship.  We have been blind to so much because we would not see.  There are doors of truth into which we have not entered because of our preoccupation with lesser things and minor goals.  In our private lives we have failed to meet the inner demands of our own conscience.  We have done violence to the truth that is within us.

 

On the other side, there have been so many moments of wholeness in which we have participated when we have felt purified, cleansed, and somehow redeemed.  We have been surrounded by so much of grace and goodness in which we have shared consciously and deliberately.  We have been cognizant of needs that extend beyond our household and friends.

 

We acknowledge before You, our Creator, the mixture of Life which is ours…We spread our lies out before You, complete and utter…Pour out upon us in abiding measure Your Spirit, O Creator, without which we stumble in the darkness and perish.

 

Infuse us with Your Spirit to awaken us from the slumber that keeps us isolated from one another.  Guide us in reaching out to one another as brothers and sisters of the one human family to which we all belong,.  Bring us into living awareness of our interconnection that we may realize in hurting one individual we are inflicting pain on ourselves and the entire human community as well.  We pray for peace in the world, for the dignity of every human soul, and for the unity of all Creation.

 

In You, whose Heart encompasses all of us and accepts us where we are, we pray.

 

Amen.

 

(Boldface:  Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment, p. 24)

Contributed by Louise Rasmussen

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