In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police officers on May 25 in Minnesota, there has been outrage, horror, and anger by Americans—and rightly so.
Additionally, these feelings have been coupled with an outpouring of solidarity that has taken the form of street protests for more than ten days across the United States in recognition of the need for a change to the horrendous reality that people of color, especially black Americans, must survive each day.
This call for stopping, and to change what is unjustly an all too common experience—a person of color being abused, beaten, or like George Floyd, dying at the hands of the police—is absolutely necessary.
The time HAS come to seek to lasting change in our society.
And although legislation, and review boards, and mandatory trainings, and all sorts of other initiatives will need to be an active part of how we need to go about the extensive systemic change that is necessary, it’s no where close to being enough.
The moment before our nation is critical. It is a moment that has been centuries in the making, but in this moment, our nation is suffocating.
George Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe” embody not just a physical reality where we are still fighting against a virus that can literally suffocate one to death, it also gives voice to the very psychic and emotional reality being experienced by so many in our current economic wasteland.
A wasteland that may have now just fully revealed itself in the wake of COVID-19 stay at home orders, but is truly a result of economic and political policies that have dehumanized and treated individuals as replaceable cogs in the machine of materialism and for decades.
But my writing here is not about politics. And it is not about economics, or even history.
Rather, it’s about the path ahead.
It’s about what we must do in order to carve out a path into the wilderness of the human soul, that, if followed to its natural conclusion, will transform society at its most fundamental level.
And what could possibly accomplish that? What is the path ahead?
Fearless authenticity is rooted in a right understanding of who we are, of why we are here, and what we are called to be in this world—saints.
Fearless authenticity is about all about recognizing that life is about more than ourselves, and that love is about willing the good of the other.
Fearless authenticity is a life where we are constantly striving to come to know ourselves and others so deeply and profoundly that eventually we can see with eyes of love and then we act accordingly—promptly and easily.
Fearless authenticity is to gaze at another with love—and to see myself.
Fearless authenticity doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of our world, but rather seeks to embrace them and transform them through love.
Fearless authenticity will be what allows us to truly breathe in the fullness of the life that God created each one of us for—lives of purpose, peace and abundance.
Lives full of love and mercy which result in peace with our brothers and sisters because we live justice.
We live justice because we have sought to identify the darkness in our own hearts, and then done the hard work to shine the light into those dark recesses of our soul.
And what are those dark recesses? All of those thoughts and feelings that difference is bad, or is less than ourselves, which can then prompt our inclinations and actions to avoid or destroy that difference.
The dark place that refuses to acknowledge that we are all susceptible to these thoughts and feelings, and that it is only through constant vigilance that we can even begin to attempt to change them or keep us from reverting back to these prejudices.
But the darkest corner of our soul, the place that must be entered if we are to have any chance at all to try and live out a life of love and mercy and justice is that of our own hubris.
We must set aside our pride—as both individuals and as a nation, that tells us that we are able to carve out this path into our souls on our own.
We must set aside the pride that tells us what a great person I am because I have “friends of color” or that tells me that I am not prejudiced because I agree that people should not be treated horribly by those in authority in our society.
We must also set aside the lies that tells us that we are victims, that we are powerless, that we should not trust, or that there is no hope for change to occur—that lie that “things will never change.”
We must set aside our pride as a nation and stop speaking of “how great” we are as a country until every person—black, brown, yellow, every hue in between, and yes, white, too—not only have an opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but have the chance to live lives of love.
To do this, we must set aside our pride and all the lies and turn to the One who is Love.
The same One who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.
He showed us more than two millennia ago what was necessary to be fearlessly authentic. About what was necessary to live a life poured out in love for others.
He told us what was possible if we put first things first and loved God with our whole hearts, our whole souls and our whole minds.
But we have refused to do this. Or we have turned away. Or we have forgotten.
Saint Francis de Sales gave us the wisdom we need for this moment when he wrote:
“We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God.”
We must strive to make our hearts right by going deep into the wilderness of our soul and purifying it alongside the One who desires to reside there.
We must remain steadfast in our courage by rooted ourselves in the One who is faith, hope and love, so we can resist the lies of discouragement, division and despair as we struggle along the path of righteousness.
And we must keep our trust fixed on the One who created all things and in, with and through whom all things find their true purpose and meaning and fulfillment.
To do this, we must be fearlessly authentic. With others, but especially with ourselves.
We must not waver from this course. We must strive for this each and every day, each and every hour, each and every moment of every day.
It is only fearless authenticity that will result in the systemic change we are all yearning for, but have been unable to see and experience yet in our society.
We must not be afraid to go deeper into the wilderness of our soul.
If we are to attempt to erase this blight on the soul of our nation that has been present since its founding, we must be fearlessly authentic.
If we are to truly try to eradicate this cancer eating at the root of our common humanity, we must be fearlessly authentic.
And as we are fearlessly authentic in all we think, and say and do, we will be transformed into the saints God created us to be.
Fearless authenticity is the name of the path that we must set out and walk.
Look, there is the sign ahead!
Let us choose to walk the path and be fearlessly authentic.
Then, as Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta implored of us many years ago, we will be the change we wish to see around us, and then, and only then, will we see lasting change.
I am striving to take that path, but I cannot do it alone. I need all my brothers and sisters to walk with me.
For it is only together, that we can ensure that our hearts stay right, our courage remains steadfast, and that our trust stays fixed on God.
For it is only together that we can be the saints God created us to be.
So, together let us strive to do whatever it takes to be able to tell the Master of Death once and for all, “Not Today!”
Christina Semmens is a Roman Catholic author, speaker, and coach and host of the Say Yes to Holiness podcast. She currently lives in Fort Payne, Alabama where she strives to live out a life of authentic discipleship in the pursuit of holiness while empowering, teaching and accompanying others in striving to do the same.