There’s an old saying that could be interpreted positively or negatively:
“May you live in interesting times.”
We are living in “interesting” times – deadly times, anger-inducing times, times that make us shake our heads in sadness (or in anger), times that make us wonder what we’re made of and sometimes, what the people we THOUGHT we knew were made of.
Many of you may be wondering right now – What can I do? I’m only one person!
We are all in this together – you’ve heard that before, and it is still true today, but with a qualifier:
We are not all acting from the same level of RISK. Risk is real and relevant – because the reaction to my raising my voice as a Black woman, to my calling out injustice, to my asking those in my circle to take action, can be very different than the reaction a white woman would get.
This is not a competition – we’re not here to see who gets the most virulent and hateful rhetoric aimed at them, or the most threats to their livelihood and person – but I need you to understand that the stakes are NOT the same for all of us.
I speak out because I’ve been trained to do so, and because it’s my calling. I rise to this occasion because my spirit is calling me to do so. I do the work I’m assigned to do, and then I take a step further because my integrity and my commitment won’t allow me to do any less.
Your integrity, my integrity, OUR integrity are tested when our backs are against the wall. And they are – we are against the wall and it’s time to push back.
It’s not “fun” to be in difficult situations – they are NOT comfortable – but we must still RISE to the occasion. Rising to the occasion may not be easy, but it MUST be done. Challenges we face have the potential to cause you to question your core values.
One of my core values through my Unitarian Universalist faith is the strong, unshakeable belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. Not just the ones I agree with, not just the ones I know personally, but every human being.
Treating every human being as if they HAVE inherent worth and dignity isn’t always easy, and it’s not always fun, but it MUST be done. We must be willing to stretch, grow, take a chance, call some people out, and demonstrate what we believe in.
Now don’t get it twisted – acting with integrity, treating everyone as if they possess inherent worth and dignity does NOT mean you leave yourself open for violence or abuse – what would that say about YOUR inherent worth and dignity?
Face the temptation to discard the principle of inherent worth and dignity when you face someone who is spewing hatred and division, and it would be taking the easy way out to remain silent – and it’s HARD to remain silent.
There’s a call within your heart, your mind, and your soul that’s getting louder and louder – it refuses to go away, and you can’t make it quiet down. You can’t forget about it, and it physically HURTS to ignore it. The tightness in your chest, the tears in your eyes, the drumbeat you hear in your head before you realize it’s the agitated beat of your own heart…
Sometimes we are asked to choose sides – and though we love our friends and family, our neighborhoods and cities and towns, our states and our country, we must ALWAYS STAND ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH.
The TRUTH is that the inherent worth and dignity of all people is NOT YET a universal concept. All people are NOT treated equally – no matter what the situation. When you focus on seeing the TRUTH, it’s easier to LIVE IT.
ANYONE who asks you to betray your commitment to siding with truth, who asks you to give up the idea that EVERY PERSON possesses inherent worth and dignity and should be treated as such belongs on the OUTSIDE of your inner circle. Make it a priority to hold your free conscience, your loving heart, your commitment to standing on the side of truth OVER people who ask you to be dishonest, or simply to be silent while THEY perpetuate hatred, dishonesty, and division.
Today, I want to encourage you to be sure of yourself and what you believe in. Maintain your integrity, enhance your inherent worth and dignity, and build a strong foundation on which to take action and move forward.
Think hard about how you can remain true to yourself even when challenged by tough situations, and how you can reaffirm the inherent worth and dignity of your fellow human beings whether you agree with their every word and action or not.
Now is the time to face your fears, strengthen your purpose, and build up your confidence – let your voice be heard! Stand up for what you believe in, train yourself to be brave, master your fears, and persist through challenges and struggles.
Finally, I want to give you a new definition for the word FEAR