“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” Mother Teresa
Watching friends stand against a candidate drove me a little crazy by the end of the 2017 presidential election. Too many friends were campaigning and voting against a person instead of for one. I understood the dilemma, but tearing down the other candidate, as well as the people voting for him or her, didn’t stand a chance of helping their person win.
“Anti” is divisive. Take a look at its synonyms from Thesaurus.com: contradictory, contrary, irreconcilable, negating, antagonistic. On the flipside, its antonyms include harmonious, equal, confirming, consistent, and reconciled.
Posts, memes, and comments standing against something bother me even when I agree. I’m anti-racist. However, when friends put this announcement across their profile pictures or lecture about it on social media, it seems they’re stirring a pot instead of practicing and setting an example of tolerance. Their anti-isms smack with arrogance instead of acceptance.
This reminds me of the white woman who came to our faculty meeting for an afternoon of race relations training. She seemed professional and qualified enough until teachers questioned her ideal solutions that work in textbooks, but not in a classroom. She sneered, argued, and put down those who didn’t agree with her. She turned out to be prejudiced against anyone she decided wasn’t open-minded like her. It was strange to watch her act out what she preached against – intolerance, conflict, and supremacy.
Around conflicted people like her, I end up feeling defensive and confused. I’m pretty certain others do too since teachers in that meeting became aggressive and upset just like I see friends do on Facebook and Twitter when people preach love, but don’t stand for it.
I think this happens because it’s easier to preach anti-racism than to practice loving everyone. It’s easier for a friend to talk anti-abortion rhetoric than to listen to a mutual friend who regrets having one. It’s simpler to quote a Bible verse we’re convinced means God stands against homosexuality than to address whether or not we stand against it.
We blame a lot on political correctness, but I’m not so sure the problem isn’t that we’re turning into people who too often “stand against” to avoid the work it takes to stand together. We’re “anti” instead of finding something to stand for and making it happen. It’s easier to be bitter than better. We’re too lazy to do much except protest verbally or carry a sign.
One of the most disturbing posts I’ve read on Facebook wasn’t about politics, but the school pickup line. A mom attacked (in writing) three early-arriving parents that she noticed sitting at the head of the line when she rode by the school while running errands. She wrote that their early arrival created children who will likely end up feeling entitled and, as a result, bully other students. What? Where’d that come from?
She admitted to not knowing these early-arriving parents or their kids, but still she stood against them.
Her post and her assumptions sounded bizarre to me, but she drew a crowd of Facebook friends who agreed that parents who consistently pick up their children early were overly attentive, coddling parents that raised spoiled brats who were likely to pick on others – her friends actually wrote this stuff. A father who knew the accusatory mom called timeout, but that didn’t stop her or what snowballed on her page – a whole lot of people standing against something ridiculous. I mean, we’ll fall for anything, won’t we?
The power of standing for something dawned on me when a friend ran for a public office and asked if she could run her ideas by me. She planned to stand against the two controversial motorcycle rallies held in Myrtle Beach every May – controversial because the beach is overrun with bikes for most of the month and safety and enjoyment for residents and other visitors become an issue. I said, “I’d choose to stand for something instead of against motorcycles.”
I’d recently read an article on the topic of “standing for,” which was the reason I thought the advice might be helpful. As it turned out, she nearly won the election as an unknown and an unlikely candidate. I believe it’s because she ran on a positive platform, “Bring back the month of May.”
It’s the same as Mother Teresa said, invite me when you’re planning to do something for the good of people, not when you’re fighting against them.
I’m drawn to people and posts that rally around making a contribution rather than ones that breed contempt. However, I’m more stirred by the latter and more tempted to react, a trait I don’t like about myself. I want the opposite, which means following our minister Chuck Murphy’s lead. He says, “Don’t curse the darkness. Light a candle.”
My problem is, the lazy drama queen on the opposite shoulder from my Jiminy Cricket (my conscience) says, “Let’s stand against the people spreading darkness. We’ll complain about and judge them. That way, we’ll feel better about ourselves because, after all, we’re not like them.”
And then one day, we all look the same … standing against causes and statues and each other.
What I loved about Martin Luther King Jr. is he didn’t work from a grudge, but from grace. I’ve read dozens of his quotes, as well as Mother Teresa’s, and I haven’t found one that stands against anything. These two offer guidance, not guilt. Gratitude instead of griping. Graciousness instead grief. They said things like, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” and “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”
I was first attracted to Glennon Doyal Melton, the popular Momastery blogger and author who wrote Love Warrior, because she loved fiercely. That was, until she took a political stand last year. Now it seems she stands against pretty much everything. She calls people together to stand against something – at least, that how it appears from here.
I wondered if I was standing against her because her life doesn’t look like mine anymore. She announced a year or so ago that she’s gay and in May, she married her wife. I didn’t figure out what bothered me about her until I heard from Ellen DeGeneres who has a similar lifestyle as Glennon’s. Ellen finally stood against something when she said on her show, “You know what really irks me?”
My heart sank, but I listened anyway. I’d admired her for not participating in negativity and for not getting caught up in and using her influence in a fight she could easily join. I was relieved her “irk” wasn’t some politically charged rant, but people who don’t return their shopping carts to the right place.
Ellen stands for instead of against until it comes to courtesy in the grocery store parking lot. I can deal with that. She’s proof that “standing for” is not about a lifestyle, but an attitude. She’s not a warrior, but a winner. She’s not about fighting against things, but finding the good she can do and doing it.
I’m all for fighting when it’ll do some good, but mostly I find I’m more effective (and so is everyone I’ve observed) when I find something to stand for and walk in that direction.
Are you fighting against things and maybe getting frustrated because of it? Or are you standing up for something that’ll make life worth walking through?
In This Together,