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This post is written ahead of the Women’s Day that we will be celebrating this month. One of my greatest passions lies in women and their growth and empowerment.
Over the past few months, I have spoken to 4 different black African women (bAw) who have expressed how they support and take care of those around them. These people that they care for are siblings, parents, partners/boyfriends and/or even friends. These women help with school fees or life expenses, as well as being a shoulder to cry on as their loved one faces tough times. For years now these women have gone without certain things, including investments that they would have benefited from because of their desire/need to support others around them. These are young and middle-aged women.
I was also watching Sarafina for the 2nd time (since childhood) the other weekend and I noticed how she too seemed to be the carer of the children by her home and she led other young people at her school. She gave of her time, her energy and resources for the greater good of others. I’ve seen it in how my Mother willingly gave up her job so that our family could travel with my father’s job, or how she would not buy new clothes for herself for months so that we could have new things. I think it’s the nature of women in general but I notice it so distinctly amongst bAw. This is possibly because these are who I engage with the most. And anyway, we’re trying to understand the bAw more.
The reason I decided to write about this is because of something each of these 4 different and unrelated women expressed. They essentially highlighted the fact that they have helped out the people in their lives (especially the men in their lives) out of feelings of guilt or obligation. They may have even tried to reduce their assistance towards these people but felt obliged in the end to continue giving it. Not only that, but these sisters are waking up to the fact that they desire to be taken care of too and to enjoy life as well. To not carry such heavy responsibility but to experience (in some cases) the childhood they did not have the chance to experience because from a young age they were too busy caring for others.
When I read/hear the stories of bAw, I see how much of a burden they have carried for centuries. The bAw has in some instances died to herself so as to seemingly give life to others around her. She has supressed her own goals and desires to fulfil those of children or husbands or brothers or sisters or cousins or friends etc. first. I can relate to an extent to this myself. For a long time I believed that loving another meant that I gave them everything before thinking of myself. It’s as though that is the code of living that is injected in the bloodstream of the majority of bAw from childhood. At a gathering in my country and culture, the women serve food to others first before serving themselves. After having slaved away at preparing a meal for a large group of people, we women dish it out for the children and the men, then we dish for ourselves. We eat almost in a rush because we then have to clear up and make sure everyone else’s needs are still being met. I sometimes do not enjoy family gatherings/occasions because of this. This is just an example that comes to my mind.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe my culture carries some truly valuable lessons. Christ Himself has emphasised the fact that it is better to serve than to be served (Mark 10:43-45). We ought to love others and give to others. However, I believe that He desires us to be balanced about this too. Because this same God highlights in Leviticus 19:18 that we ought to love others as we love ourselves. This is something that I believe the bAw has overlooked for a long time. And this is something that I think has started to illuminate the minds of these 4 women I engaged with. They desire to be loved in as much as they love. To receive in as much as they give. To truly live in as much as they have made it possible for others to live too.
I think that the bAw for years has not taken the time to truly love herself. She has been so pre-occupied with loving others instead. But, my dear bAw, there is no better time than now to begin loving yourself. I have been fascinated by one of the instructions they give passengers on board an aircraft when they are relaying safety regulations. They inform you of where your oxygen mask will fall from should there be a need for it and how to use it. But, they do not stop there. They proceed to mention that you should put the mask on yourself first before you assist children or the elderly or those who cannot help themselves. The natural thought would be to help the others first, right? But then when you think about it you could pass out before you can properly aid others, which would leave you and them in a worse off position than before. This shows me that we are unable to properly and healthily help others if we have not nourished ourselves first.
I hope that the bAw finds no shame or guilt in choosing to love herself first. I believe that Christ had such a deep and healthy love for Himself which is why He was able to fully and perfectly love the entire world. Which is why He was able to die a terrible death for billions of people! That can only come from a truly assured person. Self-sacrifice should not be misunderstood. When it is misinterpreted, it injures not just you but those who you come in contact with. I am glad to see that the bAw is waking up to this truth slowly but surely. May we learn what it means to value and love ourselves the way God wants us to so that we can give even more to those we desire to love and support. As we go through this Women’s Month let us learn to truly cherish ourselves as women.
What are your wishes/desires for women this month? What are your desires for yourself this month?
Remember that I’m praying for you!