My friend Peggy Ruffin is so defined by her open heart. She sees beauty everywhere and pauses to appreciate it. Whether at a ’round-the-way dive or a high-brow capital-city gathering, Peggy has never met a stranger. We all are drawn to her gentle spirit, her joy and integrity, her comfort with herself.


She doesn’t need her hair, her home, her life to be in order to invite you in. Even when she’s pressed for time, Peg’s not rushing and won’t hurry you. We’ve been friends since grade school, and what I cherish most about my girl is that you can tell her anything-about something you’re deeply ashamed of, the worst thing you ever did-and she won’t judge you. Though she has had her share of loss and heartache, Peggy doesn’t play the blame game. She knows it’s all a gift, the raw material for creating a better life.


Abbey Lincoln wrote so profoundly and sings so passionately: Give your love, live your life, each and every day. And keep your hands wide open, and let the sun shine through, ’cause you can never lose a thing if it belongs to you. Stress and anxiety evaporate as we loosen our grip.


Letting go isn’t giving up. It’s only giving up trying to change people and control what you can’t: the unseen Force that strings together this thing called life.


Harshly judging ourselves and one another and trying to control every outcome has made Black women weary and harmed our relationships. Let’s soften our hearts in all our interactions, especially toward people who irritate us the most. Sisters and brothers need to cut one another some slack instead of tearing down our own house. Let’s start tearing down the fences that separate us so we can work and build together.


Our hardest work is going beyond our learned behavior and healing ourselves, so we stop passing our pain and dysfunction from one generation to the next. To the degree that I like myself for who I really am and stop finding fault with what God made, I break out of a self-constructed prison. How we feel about ourselves is reflected in how we treat everyone else and how creatively we use whatever life sends us.


For a bit of time today, notice how easily you judge yourself, others and each event. Notice how tight and grim you feel. Then take a few deep breaths, relax and decide to have a love affair with life, making no negative judgments about anyone or anything. Just go with the flow and feel the difference.


As we move out of the world of measurement and judgment, we trust in divine order more, and life gets easier. We love ourselves more and find a new kinship with others. We are kinder, more appreciative and healthier too. We focus on what really matters. We expect no harm from change, from the natural flow of life, which we can never direct. Like Peggy, we simply part like a river around a rock, continuing toward the sea.

Susan L. Taylor, Editorial Director, Essence Communications Inc.