Well, if you are anything like me, you are probably being overwhelmed with social media posts full of people participating in acts of defiance right now. People congregating on the lawns of their state capitols, holding their guns and signs, protesting for freedom from wearing masks or having to keep businesses closed. Other people protesting government and demanding that churches be opened, and their constitutional rights upheld. Still others protesting the protesters and demonizing them, even rejoicing when some fall ill or die. People taking Stands for their Important Rights that are being Unfairly Censored and Using capital Letters in the Middle of sentences for No Apparent Reason that I can Understand. Repost if you agree!
Defiance is a thing in American culture and always has been. We were birthed on it. We are the nation of rugged individuals. Our heroes are Rambo, Deadpool, Dirty Harry – anyone who can come out fighting after having been wronged by the guy in the black hat. That one guy who kicks ass all the time. That guy who takes ’em all out and stands tall at the end, middle finger raised high. Being American nowadays is about being the defiant rugged individual, ready to boldly take on the world and do it Our Way.
But defiance can be a trap. Righteous anger can be a drug, and there are a lot of people overdosing lately. You can die of it, and not even know.
The act of defiance can easily become the lens for how you view the world until you slowly go blind. I am seeing it taking over the lives of people in all walks of life, each one tweeting and filming and posting their respective battles against those with whom they are at odds. After a while, all they post is objections, warnings, insults, resentments re-posted and passed on to others for their outrage and disgust. The worst part is that somewhere along the line, their view of the world has become one based on fear. “We” must protect ourselves from”them” because “they” are evil/sinful/stupid/misguided…
And the world gets smaller and meaner with each post.
Not for me.
Here is my manifesto, my little flag in the wind, my act of defiance.
I will sing as often as possible. I will laugh. If I need to cry, I’ll do that, too, but not any more than I have to. I will hunt out the good in others like a pig roots for truffles and I won’t stop until I find it. I will take a moment and breathe before I decide what to say. Sometimes I will not say anything at all, and sometimes I will speak, but only if I can do it kindly and with love. I will listen for the fear and hurt behind the anger, and I will do my best to honor it. I will take my own anger and use it for something other than my own satisfaction. I won’t argue pointlessly; I can use the time better for making art, playing with the dog, encouraging the neighbors, praying. I will own my personal bag of emotional baggage and keep it where it should be – not hidden on a back shelf, but not spilled out all over the tarmac, either. I will say the name of Jesus without shoving it down other people’s throats. I will not pit my faith against theirs. I will choose what is inconvenient if it gives others the advantage they need to be their best. I’ll choose patience when what I really want to do is roll my eyes out loud. I will take the step back if someone else needs to move forward. I will release myself from being a white savior and just be a friend. I will not take myself too seriously, because, I mean, c’mon, it’s ME. I will wear washable clothes and comfortable underwear. I will use my upraised thumb more than my middle finger. When I use my middle finger, I will apologize and try to do better. I will keep my sense of humor clean and acceptable to old ladies and five year olds. I will admit when I am wrong. I will ask before I tell. I will pick the simple over the complicated.
I will choose hope when it looks stupid and joy when it appears pointless, because those are the times you need hope and joy most.
And I will always, always stop to pet the dog. ANY dog.
Defiance! Thumb UP!