Learning to Let It Go

Posted in: News 2005-Older

Column: In Times Like These…

By ‘Rolake Odetoyinbo

It saddens me to see how HIV can break not just bodies, but spirits, hearts and souls.

We all carry around some form of pain, but for those of us living with HIV, there’s so much pent up anger, pain and regrets. We can’t forgive ourselves for getting infected and causing our loved ones so much worry. We see fear and concern in their eyes each time we fall ill even with something as common as malaria, and we feel guilty just watching them care for us and fret over us.

So I want us to spend this new week trying to forgive.

First on that long list is ourselves as individuals. None of us willingly and knowingly went out to acquire HIV. Some of us were careless and misplaced our priorities, some were out rightly stupid and some totally ignorant. A good number however got infected just loving. We need to come to an understanding of this, so we can let go of the guilt and just pat ourselves on the back, hug our fat, slim or frail bodies and say: “Body, I forgive you for getting HIV”

A lot of us also just can’t stop blaming the person who infected us. But until we forgive them and stop apportioning blames, we won’t ever move forward.

It’s really sad if that person is a dead spouse who left you with children to raise all by yourself and, worse still, if it’s an ex who’s still in denial and keeps going on like all is well.

You want to tear their eyes out so they can protect other people, but you have no control over them seeing, as everybody must take responsibility for their own lives and health. Remember you’re not Voltron–Defender of the Universe, so all you can do is lend your voice to the campaign against the spread of HIV and against the stigma that makes people hide and deny their HIV infection.

We need mending in our hearts and souls. We need to allow God to forgive us as we forgive those who sinned against us.

For those of us who have been stigmatized and unfairly discriminated against, carrying the pain and being afraid to open up again won’t make things better. We must come out of our shells and face the world again. Living in shame and fear would do us no good, so take life head-on, forgive people for their ignorance and stupidity and show them a fresh face of HIV. Teach them people living with HIV can and do have a meaningful and productive life.

I know this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but we must LIVE with HIV, not die from AIDS and its complications. We must forgive so we can move on with our lives. I have found peace because I’ve forgiven God, forgiven myself, forgiven a couple of loved and once-loved ones and I’m still daily learning to forgive some more people I come in contact with.

Most importantly, let us forgive God. I had a running battle with Him for a long time, because He not only sat by and allowed HIV into my life, He iced the cake by not healing me as soon as I knew my status and asked Him to take this virus away. It wasn’t until I made peace with God that my heart got mended and He gave me a new extraordinary life.

Now I have life in abundance and I can tell you without blinking an eyelid that this sickness is not unto death. My dear friends, please ignore those hyper-spiritual brethren who have set themselves as God’s special advisers; they make you feel miserable because your healing hasn’t come. They add guilt to your pains by saying you lack faith. But all God requires from you is faith like a mustard seed, not like a mountain.

That you sought God out is proof that you believe in Him. Sometimes, these senior brothers of God insist there is a sin in your life stopping your prayers. Just know that as far a God is concerned, your sins were forgiven and forgotten the day you asked. Don’t allow anybody to take you on a guilt-trip again. Any and every question they have about your healing should be directed to the Healer!

Rolake Odetoyinbo is the project director of Nigeria’s Positive Action for Treatment Access. Her column appears monthly on BlackAIDS.org.

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