In some ways Paula Deen has done what a person should do who wants forgiveness. But she veered terribly wrong when she expected that forgiveness from human beings would be immediate. The process of forgiveness seldom works that way in this world because there are too many layers of healing to get through to get to the destination point where all is forgiven.
Still, the fact that forgiveness has not been immediate does not mean forgiveness won’t come. The truth is Deen has caused a significant amount of pain, even if you just go by what she has admitted to—among this, using the “N” word and calling black people “monkeys.” Certainly, she created an environment that made many employees uncomfortable and caused more pain than she realizes.
So what can we learn from the media disclosure that the celebrity chef used the “N” word? More importantly, what might we have learned if this whole public conversation had been handled differently? This is, after all, a glaring opportunity for us all to learn, for our country to perhaps take a giant step in racial forgiveness. But again, the dialogue has to be handled differently.
First, let’s look at Deen herself. She admitted in a deposition for a workplace discrimination suit that she used racial slurs some 30 years ago and more recently tolerated bigoted behavior in her restaurants. Bravo for Deen for being honest, for admitting to mistakes.
Admission and accepting responsibility for our actions is the first step in asking for forgiveness. Of course, I doubt that it was Deen’s conscious intention to ask for forgiveness when she answered questions in her deposition. She is probably still trying to understand everything that she needs to change within herself—and her company. Subconsciously, however, she did ask for healing by saying that she is a different person now and sorry for what she knows was wrong.
It is obvious she has evolved from someone who comfortably used racial epithets to a woman who former President Jimmy Carter said in an CNN interview should be forgiven, noting that her programs in Savannah, Georgia, benefit "almost exclusively oppressed and poverty stricken black people.” Even my friend Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew, tweeted support of Deen—and I know Carla’s heart and trust her judgment.
That does not mean Deen is perfect or that she does not have a lot of flaws that need changing. For all I know, she may be guilty of the specific accusations made by her former employee in the lawsuit. But by uttering the truth—that she used a racial epithet--she set into motion this request for healing and acknowledgement of past “wrongs.” The universe—God—heard the request and responded. What is happening may not look like healing. In fact, her life appears to be chaotic, as one sponsor after another dumps her. But on a spiritual level, her life is being realigned.
Let’s imagine who she used to be was someone operating at a lower vibration or consciousness than who she is now. And now, although she still must do a lot of self work, she is operating at a higher consciousness than in the past. Her heart has changed. So she has asked for forgiveness, but those two Paula Deens must merge. It’s like rearranging a room when new furniture arrives and yet the old furniture hasn’t been picked up or discarded. Chaos ensues until all of the rearranging and discarding and arrangement of the new is in place.
This public forgiveness Deen is seeking will not happen overnight, because the pain and hurt she has caused—the old furniture she has collected and allowed to get dusty—was not created overnight either.
In a way Deen’s original confession opened the spiritual door for the chaos and thus, the healing. But we have seen that the celebrity chef was startled and unprepared to be dumped and rejected. Aren’t we generally unprepared for such backlashes when we are sincerely apologetic? Yet, the healing has begun!
Unfortunately for those of us watching, the media covers the sensational and what will fit into a tiny, tiny sound bite. We are told of the racial epithet uttered years ago, but we are left to dig through our own spirits for the deeper meaning.
Let this be a cautionary tale for us all. For one, when you ask for forgiveness, you are asking God to align the old you with the new you. In other words, to heal everything that separates the old you from the person you are trying to be today. Expect some chaos! Don’t assume you will be immediately forgiven.
Second, asking to be healed may mean the release of a lot of people and circumstances you see as good, but that may actually not at all support your divine healing. Deen’s sponsors have in the past supported this person who was not really the Southern “mama” who comforted everyone with her actions and her food. In some ways, they helped create that false image, the image that does not support her higher self. And they were comfortable doing it as long as it supported their bottom line: profit.