by Shawn D’Abreu
Some suggestions for your activist life:
(These help me.)
Pray: Prayer is a refuge. It is talking to God as to a friend. There are situations which only He can understand and the channels to His throne are always open.
(Bonus) The Psalms are a boon: A perfect resource to learn how to pray, praise and lament as well. Spurgeon’s “The Treasury of David” and Hans LaRondelle’s “Deliverance in the Psalms” are wonderful and useful commentaries.
Count the Cost: If there is no progress without struggle, then there is no struggle without costs. If you are engaged in any worthwhile effort to mitigate systemic or individual harm or to change a system, then it will be expensive to mind, body, and soul.
Everyone “Mad” Now, Won’t be Mad Later: Most people will make the necessary mental adjustments and if they aren’t directly and significantly impacted right away, they won’t make too much noise. Don’t judge them but be aware most folks will not venture on the front line with you.
Be Convinced of Your Own Cause: Humble certainty and firm conviction are not the mark of weak minds or stubborn constitutions. Be sure that your cause is worth the urgency and then settle into that understanding. Otherwise, you’ll blow back and forth between several opinions and your efforts will be erratic.
Take Care: The whole movement, the whole sum total of the resistance does not depend upon your 24/7 vigilance. If it does, something is wrong. You need to eat, worship, sleep, rest and have family and social time. Otherwise, you will break down, be vulnerable to wild mood swings, paranoia, depression, loneliness and deep, deep resentment.
Have a Getaway: This should be someplace different than your home. It should be a place in nature that is safe, quiet and remote enough that you are transported away.
Count the Cost (Part 2): Look around. Most of the people who are the most outspoken work for churches, nonprofits, hospitals or they are self-employed. Their job (for now) either encourages and subsidizes their outspokenness, don’t care about their advocacy views or, for the time being, are unaware of their positions. Working for “change” makes you an economic target. Rosa Parks and her husband were almost destitute for a while after her stand against injustice. Have a plan. Be smart. Things don’t “just work out”.
All Your Allies Don’t Attend Rallies: Don’t think one must pump their fists and speak loudly or attend all your meetings to really be “down for the cause”. Some people are there. Some people can’t be there, but they will subsidize some of your work or give you a hot meal and a safe, comfortable place to recharge. They may be a good sounding board or they may give you some sage advice. Learn to appreciate all the good that you can receive. There will be an overabundance of bad, so be grateful. Cultivate diverse kinds of allies.
Your Side Isn’t Perfect: You may be right and your cause just, but don’t become complacent. Practice the same values you keep demanding others to follow. Hypocrisy and internal contradictions are what tears apart most groups working for change. Be capable of self-reflection and if something is true, no matter who said it, accept it on principle. Even if you must reject the motive of the person delivering that truth, take what is valuable, discard the chaff.
All Opponents are Not Enemies: Learn to tell the difference. There are folks who impede your progress, but for them it’s not personal, it’s business. Or it’s a matter of principle but they are not trying to destroy your life. You can understand that without yielding any ground. You may even have room for dialogue and an opportunity to persuade them.
But You Will Have Enemies: And they will try to undermine, misrepresent, distort, malign and destroy you. Whether its personal or not they perceive you as an existential threat because you dissent, disagree or refuse to yield. Its not friendly. While you should harbor no malice toward any, you should not underestimate the dangers, subtle and overt, your enemies pose to you.
Contingencies will Save Your Life: Always have several, as applicable.
Your Phone is Not Your Friend: Manage your electronic devices, don’t let them dictate or structure your life. Learn to use a paper map and a real compass. Have face to face meetings. Memorize numbers and other details. Convenience and security are rarely compatible. Take device security seriously. You’ll be glad you did.
The Arc and the Justice: Dr. King, paraphrasing Theodore Parker, said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. One must believe that there is a Creator who devised this arc and a divine throne, upon a mercy seat, where the bend meets a just Judge.
As an activist or advocate, you will be misunderstood and unjustly accused in ways which wound your person and soils your reputation. What you are working toward may never ultimately be achieved in your lifetime. You need to know there is Someone outside of yourself Who is able and willing to give you strength and peace of mind.
There must be a certainty that if all accounts are not settled here, they will one day be settled because all arcs must bear the examination of the Searcher of Hearts.
Justice may be hindered by time but never frustrated by eternity. God sees, He knows, He understands, He cares and He judges, rightly.
Originally posted at Standing Room Only, the policy and opinion blog of D’Abreu, Davis and Silk, a public advocacy firm. Reposted with the permission of the author.