January 17, 2021
“How can I be kind and still stand up for myself and my beliefs?”
This is a common question I get asked, particularly after I post a video pushing back on racist, homophobic, misogynistic or bigoted ideologies (sometimes all of them at once).
It often gives me pause — an opportunity for self-reflection.
Have I been kind? Well, full disclosure. There are times when I respond to trolls in ways that feel not-so-kind.
I could easily defend my behavior, as the attacks are relentless, the comments exhaustingly repetitive, and often quite cruel. I mean, how many ways can you say that 1) I’m out of the will of God, 2) my followers are being deceived, and 3) only one interpretation of the Bible is valid (meaning my interpretation is most definitely wrong)?
While that could be a valid excuse, the truth is my responses teeter on the fine line of civil discourse and are more of a reflection of my own shadow.
What is the shadow and why does it arrive here as we discuss kindness and sacred activism? Simply put, our shadow consists of the things we deem unacceptable about ourselves. We often refuse to see these things and deny their influence in how we show up in the world.
We don’t have to be conscious of it - it’s always there. We are quick to recognize it in others when we point out their negative traits — greed, selfishness, stubbornness, ego-mania, and so on. Yet, if we can develop deep self-awarenss we will also begin to recognize that those same traits dwell within us.
My shadow rears its head when I’m triggered by hateful comments. They hold up a mirror that reflects tremendous guilt — I see someone who looks exactly like the people judging and persecuting others because of their gender, color of their skin, or whom they love.
For years, I threw scripture around at those who I felt were unworthy of the same existence I enjoyed because they did not live or believe like I did. The arrogance was part of my religious indoctrination that convinced me that I had the authority to condemn others with vitriol and disdain as long as it was for the “glory of the Lord.”
When I pause and consider how I justified my toxic behavior, I can’t recall one time where I thought twice about how my words landed in the hearts of the people they were directed at. I’m quite sure I never “brought someone to Jesus” by wielding my Biblical sword with little regard for the wounds I inflicted.
In a sense, I too was a troll and the comments I get on social media remind me of that. It’s the part of myself that callously hurt others that I am rejecting and railing against when I’m not-so-kind in my responses.
What does this mean for you and me as we step out into the world as sacred activists who want to be a part of the healing that humanity needs?
It means we won’t always get it right.
It means we need to accept that as we navigate hatred and injustice, kindness is a goal that we will sometimes miss.
It means we keep moving forward, even when others accuse us of being rude or unkind... and it means that just because we are being accused of these things, it isn’t necessarily true. Not when we are standing up for those who are marginalized or if it is improving the human condition.
In the end, our benchmark is not what others see — it is what we see in ourselves. This is where my self-awareness reminds me that who I am today is nothing like who I was yesterday. But the presence of my shadow assures I will not go backwards.
On the contrary, it helps me stay focused on the sacred activism that is my calling.
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The 60’s were a dichotomy. They held great tension as people risked their lives to free themselves from the oppression their ancestors had endured. Even brutal winters did not deter activists from marching in frigid temps to stand together and fight for their rights.