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Change in Heart - Change in Behavior

Friends, our world is broken, hurting, and dying for truth, hope, and holy love. It is ONLY a heart change that will ever make a difference.

By Emmalyn Jerome LLM's Rachel's House Director


"For nearly 10 years of my “other life" before plunging into the non-profit world, I worked in "Corporate America." Whenever people would ask me what I did for a living, I would say, "corporate HR (Human Resources)" or "HR compliance." To go into detail of what I really did would take a lot of time and explaining and then usually end up in a political argument. So, I found it best just to say "HR Compliance."

My first job out of law school was affirmative action/EEO (equal employment opportunity) compliance. For companies with more than 50 employees and who have government (state or federal) contracts must have an affirmative action plan (detailed stats of the entire workforce, using census data to see if the internal workforce is reflective of community, city, state based on jobs from hourly wage earners to executives). Affirmative action became law in 1965 by an Executive Order.

I remember when I was several months into my new job at a large global healthcare company, I was trained by an outside attorney who told me, "it'll take about 3 months to immerse yourself into this field, but once you do, it'll click and you'll never be without a job." She was absolutely right. The main reason being because it's like tax law, something that companies have to do, no one wants to do it, and if you don't do it, it will cost money (lawsuits or lost contracts). Over the years, I worked for several large, global multibillion dollar companies doing AA compliance as well as HR generalist work. My role was one where companies often weren't sure what "department" to house it in. So, I reported to labor relations, VP's of field HR, compensation, recruiting, HR systems, you name the HR field, I probably reported into it.

Now, almost 10 years out of that world, I have been recently reflecting on those jobs and the field of AA compliance in general in light of the world that I live and work in now. I live in a faith-based recovery community where folks are learning to create a new life with new support systems and new ways of thinking, and adapting to new environments.

One lesson I learned early on is behavior change without a heart change is not very long lasting.

Programs and recovery communities have certain rules and boundaries to keep the community a safe place from influences that would be harmful. One of the core ingredients into creating a safe place is authentic relationships where people feel safe and loved to express how they’re really feeling and to process their thoughts with trusted listeners who can help sort out crazy thinking and get to what is true.

In these safe communities, we learn and experience that love is not conditional but true love always strengthens and doesn’t weaken (enabling); truth is spoken in love; often times there’s no one to really be mad at; how to care intensely and passionately and not to care at all (holy detachment); and that the riches of Christ are usually found in the least likely of places among the least likely of people. Taken these truths together, heart changes occur and as such, behaviors and actions start to change.

Rules and boundaries are important to safeguard and preserve the community from hurt or destruction, not control or force because it is a choice to become a part of the community.

I am so grateful to God for allowing me to experience these truths lived out in community. Yes, it’s messy. Feelings get hurt. But by God’s grace and forgiveness, we can extend and receive grace and forgiveness.

Friends, our world is broken, hurting, and dying for truth, hope, and holy love. It is ONLY a heart change that will ever make a difference.

I am glad to see the Church finally waking up to the realities of inherent racism, or really biases that overtime metastasize to hatred and dehumanization, that has plagued her for centuries.

Instead of a knee-jerk reactions and signed pledges (which, I have learned from a decade of affirmative action planning, that just because you have some words on a paper, if it means nothing in your heart, it’s just a waste of a poster on a break room wall) or searching for “people of color” to come be guest speakers and a bunch of tears and promises of doing better, and talking about my “one black friend” (who wants to be a token friend anyway?!), but have not love and true relationships with people, it’s all gongs and cymbals (or modern version of 1 Cor 13 would be “drums and bass.”)

In my years of corporate work, the best lessons on affirmative action were not in diversity trainings, spreadsheets analyzing workforce demographics, or challenging an all white, male leadership on hiring more women or people of color.

The best lesson on this came from playing on “charity challenge” soccer teams and getting to know people from a variety of backgrounds and countries and their amazing stories, going to historic black colleges and universities for summer recruiting events and having dinner and exploring new cities with colleagues who were different from me but finding out more commonalities as we got to know each other, and being on work based teams with a variety of people from all walks of life. Hearing their stories of being the only black woman hired at an all white bank in Boston and having to work extra hard to prove herself or being the last seated at a crowded restaurant because of color.

It’s the relationships that are created over time and space that make the difference. It’s hard to hate someone when you know their kids‘ names, have had meals together, backyard BBQ’s together, and supported each other through milestone events (kids graduations, death of a parent, job promotions, etc).

Come, Lord Jesus. Pour your holy love into our hearts through your Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into our dry bones!

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