As election season nears in Canada, and as the news continues to dominate a struggle between left and right wing politics on both sides, I find myself increasingly wrestling with discernment–specifically discernment of when and how to speak up, to challenge untruth, injustice. In short, how to disagree well.
I know there are those who say that untruth and injustice must be challenged every time, which is fine in theory, but falls apart in practice. All too often, those who we disagree with are our family, our friends, our housemates, our neighbours. If the disagreements are infrequent enough, perhaps you can get away with challenging them as they arise–but what do you do when the disagreements are frequent and everyday, and yet you must continue to live together regardless? This calls for some tricky discernment.
There are people in my life where this is exactly the case—they say and do and believe much that angers me–a righteous anger born of empathy with the oppressed and frustration at the blindness to what I see so clearly. Yet as author Justin Lee points out, most of us do not see ourselves as villians. We all have a reason for believing as we do, and changing minds and hearts takes time, commitment–not to mention a window of opportunity and a healthy dollop of good luck.
So I find myself silent much of the time, as I recognize that sometimes the people in my life merely need to get things off their chest, and that it’s better to listen than to speak in such times. What I worry though, is whether that becomes an excuse to avoid doing something uncomfortable and fearful.
The other day I was walking and seeking guidance from the Spirit about this. In doing so, I was reminded of a couple of things. The first is that we each are given gifts through the Spirit, we each have our own role to play as a member in the Body of Christ, and through the Spirit we become more fully ourselves, not someone that we’re not. As such, my gift for direct verbal confrontation may not be great–but my gift for pubic orating, and for online advocacy, is certainly present and one I use everyday. I also know how to listen, and how to live with people I disagree with even if I can’t always share the thoughts I’d like to share. The second is that I do what I can to spread love and justice through the strengths I do have–and perhaps I need to trust that that is enough. That I am not alone in doing the work of the Spirit, that I must do the work I am meant to do, and trust the Spirit to unify my efforts into a greater whole that can accomplish more than I could possibly imagine.
So yes, in my deepest and darkest moments, I feel frustrated, scared and doubtful–but perhaps I need to hold onto that sense of hope, faith, and love–focusing on what I can do, and leaving it to the Spirit to weave my thread of life into a greater tapestry of redemption and renewal.