Making Peace with Your Nation
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Sometimes countries hurt us, whether we are conscious of it or not. And we, in our own way, respond accordingly. We respond from a place of hurt. Usually unconsciously.
Let me use myself as an example to explain what I mean. I “have” three countries - Sierra Leone, the UK, and now Nigeria. As at today, I have spent approximately a third of my life in each of these countries in the order listed. And each, in their own way, has hurt me. To varying extents, but hurt me nevertheless.
For now, I would say that Sierra Leone has hurt me the least. I left as a teenager and have such wonderful memories of my growing up there that the pain it caused me is not as evident. Having said this, as I write this, painful memories of experiences post leaving home (e.g. family members having to leave as refugees in the 1997 troubles) are slowly bubbling to the top. Hmmmm..... A story for another day.
If I am honest with myself, I think that there are also some walls I have built around my heart concerning Sierra Leone (see https://www.justasiam.ng/post/get-them-walls-down to learn more about heart walls). As I said to my mum a few years ago, I only have enough emotional bandwidth for one set of West African politics and intrigues and so I have chosen to “face” that of where I live today - Nigeria. As we say here, “I beg, I can’t come and die!” 🙂
Then, there is the UK, where I finished my education and started my professional and family lives. Again, in the spirit of honesty, I think I only appreciated the extent to which the UK had become “my home” when I moved to Nigeria 🙂. But it hurt me. Because I was older when I lived there its wounds are more obvious to me. I was saying to a close friend just the other day how I didn’t miss that feeling of “Is it because I am black?” when a random stranger does something to upset you. Sometimes the question is founded, sometimes it is completely unfounded. It stems from that low-level lingering angst as a result of feeling that you don’t fully belong and knowing that there are many others who also see you that way – “a foreigner”.
And last, but no means least, there is Nigeria. I will camp on Nigeria to illustrate my point, but I invite you to swap Nigeria for the country that is most relevant to you as you read my reflections.
Nigeria, my new home! Hmmm… I call Lagos, where I live, an “acquired taste” and I acquired the taste many years ago. Let’s just say that I can now “say with my chest”, “Naija for life!” 🙂 But oh how “Naija” has hurt me! The cuts of Nigeria run deep and have felt unrelenting.
As much as I have come to love Nigeria, it often feels like it has been a one-sided relationship; unrequited love. As some people put it in a WhatsApp group I am on, “Nigeria feels like an abusive husband. He keeps hurting you, but you stay nevertheless.” Sigh….
After years of frustrations, disappointments, discouragements, and unmet expectations I concluded that “Nigeria does not yield its fruit easily”.
But then again, why should he? Though I say I love Nigeria, have I always treated him with love. Do I forgive him quickly and easily when I feel he has “let me down again” or do I hold on to grudges? Do I harbour feelings of low-level resentment that colour how I see the country?
Do I speak about Nigeria with positive uplifting words or do I pull the country down with my mouth?
Are my day to day actions part of the solution or part of the problem?
Could it be that Nigeria is a wounded giant? Wounded by his past experiences; not least colonisation, civil war and successive military governments. Could it be that how I continue to treat Nigeria rubs salt on his wounds instead of the much-needed healing balm? Could it be that, like any wounded giant would, Nigeria lashes out to protect himself?
So, if I say I love Nigeria, I had to ask myself the question, “What would love do?” I could think of no better standard to use to reflect on this than the biblical scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
When I look at God’s standard of love, I realise that Nigeria has failed me no more than I have failed him. I haven’t loved him the way I should, and in turn, he too has not shown me the love that I desire.
A few years ago, as I joined a group to pray for Nigeria the Lord showed me that I was holding unforgiveness towards the country. As a result, my bitterness towards the country was hindering me in many ways, not least my prayers for the country.
I repented at that time and forgave Nigeria for all the ways he had hurt me. Unfortunately, despite me forgiving the country, he is still “grappling with some issues” and has hurt me a bit more since then 🙂. But guess what, I am sure that I too have hurt him in that time as well.
What to do? I must forgive Nigeria again and make peace with him. I must keep forgiving Nigeria and making peace with him until we stop hurting each other or I go to be with the Lord - whichever is soonest 🙂. You see, I know that I am called to be in Nigeria at this time. I therefore have no desire to step out of my call and leave because if I do so, I not only leave Nigeria, but I step out of my destiny. God forbid!!
If you too feel like you need to go through the process of “making peace” with whatever country you are in, some suggested steps are outlined below. It’s a combination of reflections and actions. Like so many healing processes, it is a journey and not an event. Take your time through this. Don’t rush the process, and keep revisiting it as, sadly, you are bound to hurt each other again 🙂. There is a Krio saying that speaks to this: “teet en tongue mus jam”. That is to say, by virtue of the fact that the teeth and tongue are permanently in such close proximity, from time to time the teeth will hurt the tongue.
As you go through the suggested process, I need you to remember that a nation is the sum total of its parts - you and me and the structures, systems and policies we institute and implement – explicitly or implicitly.
Happy Reconciliation! 🙂
1. Forgive your nation
Ask yourself the following questions:
What lies have I believed about my nation?
How do I really feel about my nation? When I think of the country, what feelings are evoked?
Why do I feel like this about my nation? What have been the negative experiences that have brought about these feelings?
In what other ways do I feel my nation has let me down or hurt me?
Forgive your nation for all the ways He has hurt you.
Let go of all the lies you have believed about Him and the negative emotions you've held towards him.
2. Seek your nation’s forgiveness
What seeds have I sown into my nation through my thoughts, words, and actions?
How does my nation feel about the way I have treated him?
What are the fruits of the seeds that I have sown into my nation? What are the fruits in my life and in the lives of others?
Apologies to your nation for all the ways you have hurt him and ask him to forgive you.
3. Move forward together
What do I need to do differently with respect to my nation – in thoughts, words, and deeds?
Ask God for a picture of how He sees your nation and write down the vision that comes to your mind.
Draw up a SMART* action plan for how you will better engage with your nation going forward.
* Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely
My reference to some people feeling like Nigeria is an abusive husband that they choose to stay with by no means suggests that I subscribe to the view that those who find themselves in abusive marriages should "forgive and forget". Absolutely not! That, is a story for another day. It merely expresses the depth of pain some people feel with reference to Nigeria.
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