on grace and forgiveness

Some people think I should be nicer to Louis C.K. He deserves an opportunity to grow.

Some people think that his apology is proof that he's trying and I'm being, as my Grandmother would say, hateful.

And a number of people think my posts are waaaaaaay too long, like who do I even think I am?

Whenever I start to question myself, I like to take a few minutes to check in with my gut.

My gut said, "Eat cheese and crackers." OK so thanks for nothing on the whole grace thing, gut. Good call on the snacks, tho.

Should I offer my grace to Louis C.K. even though I don't want to? Do I need to take the high road?

Is my kindness the solution? Is my anger causing harm to feminism?

Are my posts too long? How long is too long for a blog post about what I think and feel?

Unfortunately, these aren't questions with answers (oh, how I long for the SATs) but this is what I've got so far.

True: there is no substitute for grace.

I have been the recipient of grace I did not earn.

I joined an anti-racism group last year. I fucked up a lot. I still fuck up a lot. I know how it feels to be in a space where people are wary of me because I am a threat, despite wanting not to be. I know how vulnerable I am in that space.

On the spectrum of vulnerability, when I'm in a WOC-centered space I feel extremely vulnerable. When I'm among white folks, I don't have to dedicate quite so much awareness to not-being-racist.

But in this anti-racism group, I rely on the mercy of these women of color, because I know I've done and said things for which my ass deserves a good long dragging.

As vulnerable as I feel, however, I am still infinitely LESS vulnerable than the people of color who are hurt by racism every day, over and over again, by people just like me. People march through the world, unaware that the bodies they plow down beneath them actually count as bodies. People who, when they finally hear someone say "ouch," do not change the way they walk, but keep right on marching. Only now, they call out "sorry," as they go.

These women are merciful enough to offer grace, on their own terms and in a way that they can rescind when the bottomless sea of bullshit pulls them down.

It was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn early on, as the person most likely to do harm in that space: I do not get to decide what is acceptable behavior here. I do not get to decide what an effective apology looks like. This space does not belong to me. I am a guest in this house.

I do not get to demand kindness from them.
And you don't get to demand kindness from me. 

Kindness, mercy, grace. These are gifts that must be given freely.

If you try to command them, you're like the Dickensian headmaster beating me, your student, demanding that I say "Thank you, Sir, may I have another," after every blow. Or, to give a more everyday example, it's like forcing a child to apologize for hitting his brother. He's not sorry. His apology is not his gesture of remorse; it's your demonstration of power.

My kindness will be given when I am ready to give it.

My anger might make people like Louis CK feel vulnerable, as he is at the mercy of people like me whose mercy is not a given, who know he's a threat and are waiting for him to fuck up again. I know how it feels to be that guy.

But he is still less vulnerable than all the people he hurt. He said sorry. (Kind of. Technically he said he has been remorseful and that he does not forgive himself.) (As if our chief concern was whether he could forgive himself.)

I've already written about why that apology really hurts my feelings; not because it isn't insightful, but because it is. Not because he flubs Power Dynamics 101, but because he aces it. It reminds me how much I trusted him because of that insight into power. It makes me sadder and angrier to know he got it, used his insight to get into a place where I might have felt a little safe, but then kept right on marching, plowing people under him, calling out "sorry" as he went.

I get to be mad.

My anger might be uncomfortable for you; it's uncomfortable for me, too.

Think of your life as a room with a thermostat. The room is full of people; the more social power you have, the more cuddly warm clothes you're wearing. Straight white men look like a J. Crew Christmas catalogue, with cashmere mufflers and pink noses and huge grins.

- chad.
- chad.

Meanwhile I'm dressed like a dancer doing a postapocalyptic modern routine on So You Think You Can Dance, barefoot in a shredded cotton dress.

also tiptoeing
strong af
but appearing to be effortless with it
and practiced at going down to the ground
holy shit this gif is deep

The thermostat in the room is set to keep the coziest people comfortable. It just makes sense. This is the most comfortable temperature.

So I've spent much of my life shivering, wondering what's wrong with me that I just can't get comfortable. This is the most comfortable temperature, right?

I know they resent me for shivering; they don't understand why I'm not warm, it's perfectly comfortable in here. If I try to turn the temperature up a little, they get angry. They're unaccustomed to discomfort.

I've also spent that that time looking over at people wearing even less than I am, people running in place and trying desperately to stay warm, wondering why they're making such a big deal about being cold. I'm cold too, you don't see me being all dramatic about it. Honestly.

I've spent my life shivering in a room whose thermostat was set to keep the most heavily-bundled comfortable.

I have stopped thinking it's my fault that I'm cold, or feeling scorn for people who are colder than I am.

Now I wonder who the fuck is in charge of the temperature in here and who died and made him King Farenheit. Hey Chad, change the temp or share the fucking sweaters.

how's the temp now chad
now that i took your diaphanous wrap
which was delightful to the touch

If you are ready to give grace, give your grace.

If you are not angry, or if you find anger draining, or detrimental to your own life's peace, or a step backward on your journey through feminism, then don't do anger. For God's sake, we should all be done performing unfelt feelings for other people's comfort!

If you're hopeful that all people can grow and that you can help them do that, then you should do that. You don't need my approval or permission. Give grace if that's what you want to give. There is room in this conversation for my anger and your forgiveness.

I am not ready to give grace. It's okay that I'm not ready. He has not earned it. And if he's going to earn it, he needs to understand that he needs to work for it. If he's a grown-up who gives a shit about changing, he needs to be responsible for his own change.

That's what was asked of me when I joined the anti-racism group last year: work, humility, failure, persistence, and centering someone else's voice.

I feel lucky every day to be surrounded by women who have taught me how to humbly recognize when I inevitably fuck up again, how to apologize in a way that isn't about making myself look apologetic, and how to learn without demanding kindness that isn't mine to order.

We are all trying to build an atmosphere of justice. You can do that with your grace.

Right now, the way I contribute to an atmosphere of justice is with blog posts that are exactly as long as they need to be to say what I want to say.

And with my anger: earned, justified, expressed without gentleness. My anger is how I respect you. I don't believe you need me to be nice in order to hear me; I don't believe I need to seduce you into valuing justice.

This post doesn't end with answers. I wish it could, but we're all in the middle of a messy, muddy fight, and we're all doing the best we can. You keep doing you. I'll keep doing me. I like to think we're fighting on the same side, merely on different fronts.

But if a post with answers is what you need, here's one.

dudes: i'm so tired
let me lie down on you
that would be nice

me: i'm

now stand your ass up
and get to work
because i know you can

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  1. Hah! You SATrolled us. Great post.

  2. I am literally cheering right now.

  3. Thank you for using your emotional energy to not only share your anger, but also your insights, and also your gifs. They are all truly brilliant.

  4. So happy to find someone else that doesn't stop speaking (or writing) until they are done with what needs to be said.

  5. That thermostat metaphor is EVERYTHING.

  6. Yesssssss. I always feel SO MUCH MORE SANE after reading your posts. Thank you.

  7. I am so grateful to follow this blog. I feel you! I'm like Spaceranger. I feel more sane reading your posts. x

  8. Thank you so much for this. It's literally shifted my soul.
    I've been angry at numerous people, trying to forgive and not knowing where I stand on so much of that dynamic. Then there's times when I'm the opposite.
    Thank you for validating everyone's various kinds of autonomy and giving us all space to breathe. Thank you for being a loving fighter.
    Thank you for being you.

  9. The analogy of the thermostat was like an amazing lightbulb to me. I now have yet another way to judge my own behavior (or potential behavior) and I am grateful to you. I hope you will continue to keep writing, you make things so brilliantly clear. You have a new regular reader.

  10. I adore you. This is wonderful. Your thermostat analogy is bang on. THANK YOU!

    Yours, in anger.

  11. Just discovered you through a friend. I just keep reading, and loving every blog you write. I'm thankful for your voice in my life.

  12. Thank you for your post. Can I ask what anti racism group you joined? Or how you found it? I think everyone could benefit from a group like that.

  13. Thiiiis. Read your book last night. It is as if you write from my heart. You are my spirit animal.

  14. Thanks for the post! While reading it, I kept thinking of this line from your post about LCK's apology:
    "What do women do when we're afraid? What do we do when faced with sexual aggression or dangerous hostility?
    We smile. We laugh. We soothe and compromise and de-escalate. We gray out and don't think about anything until it's over. That ability to please is our biggest shield, guys. "

    When people say you aren't being nice and your post is too long and give the "poor" guy a break, they're telling you to crawl back into your woman shell - to smile, to laugh, to backtrack, to depreciate your words because you can't possibly mean what you're saying if someone else is offended by it. Never mind who the someone else is.

    You pointed out such a truth about women and how we cope with people demanding our time, energy, attention, smile, body, good opinion, forgiveness, etc. I feel like shit when I smile and laugh to try to make a guy go away, because I've already done it before I've had a chance to think, maybe this time I should tell this dude to fuck off. But you're so right, it's a survival thing. Good for you, to respond to negative reactions to your work by sticking to your guns. To write what you wrote instead of an insipid reflection on how "well I don't mean all men," and "I'm sure everyone involved can grow from this experience," and "after all, I do have to give LCK credit for acknowledging, eventually, that his conduct was inappropriate."

    You're a gem!