Something I never heard from people more conservative than myself, at any stage of my life – outside of a college classroom – directed at me or others:
“Well, why do you think like that? How did you come to that conclusion? Why are you upset? Why did you change your mind? Why do you see that differently than me?”
Something I hardly ever heard from these same people if I notified them of situations where people with authority or seniority over me were hurting me:
“I believe you and that is wrong. You are right to be upset. How can I help you get to a safer place? What do you need to heal?”
I guess I am selfish but at a certain point it starts to wear you down.
And now I am starting to conclude that at a certain point it’s ok to advocate for yourself. At a certain point it’s ok to want to be the one who is heard.
I matter and you matter and our stories matter.
Just because we have people in our life who might not care to know our side, or our opinion, doesn’t mean that we should return that same attitude of indifference. But it also doesn’t mean that we have to go out of our way to extend above and beyond levels of understanding or to seek out efforts at reconciliation with those who have no interest in offering anything similar in return.
Not when there is still healing to do. Not when you are still trying to figure things out for yourself. Not when you are in the midst of picking hundreds of broken pieces up off the floor, trying to envision how they can be put back together to create something new. Not when you are still looking for people in your life who do care to listen to you, or who do respect you, or who do support you.
Something I internalized over many years is that I am the problem.
Only I wasn’t the problem.
I certainly wasn’t the *only* problem.
Not because I am perfect, but because other people genuinely were at fault. Other people did bad things. Other people hurt me. Other people chose to not care about me. Other people used me. Other people lied about me. Other people devalued me.
And yet they were never asked to apologize or repent. And they were never expected to change or be different.
Over and over and over again.
I grew up in a youth group that alienated public school kids.
One time our youth pastor took me and another public school kid aside. And instead of ministering to the difficulty of being in an adolescent group that didn’t fully accept or understand us simply because we didn’t go to a Christian school, he took that opportunity to name some of the sins he thought we struggled with and to tell us how we should focus on addressing those sins instead of moping about as differing forms of youth group rejects.
He found our logs for us, you see, and we were supposed to be grateful and convicted and humbled.
My sin was gluttony, if you were wondering.
Because a misfit teen girl who struggles with weight and health and depression – currently dealing with rejection by all the popular church kids – definitely needed that word spoken over her life and her mind and her body.
All have sinned.
So the sins of the other kids were not going to be addressed – and the problematic dynamics of the group he led were definitely not going to change – because that would be inconvenient and really hard to achieve.
But me, well, I better clean up my act and stop complaining and just accept other people as they are.
The Bible tells me so.
They don’t have to love you and they don’t have to change or repent, but you need to love them even if they reject or hurt you and while you are at it you really need to better love God by addressing your own sin. It would especially help if you cut out the sugar and lost a few pounds. Even better if you do so with a smile on your face.
This is church after all, where the good people are.
And then we need to all pray and worship and break bread together. Because the family of God is for the people who listen and the people who don’t, for the people who care and for the people who hurt, and we really should just accept it and move on and pretend none of the bad stuff ever happens here and there is no real difference at the end of the day because we are all going to heaven anyway, right?
So long as we don’t do the REALLY bad stuff, all those truly naughty things, like the liberals, and the homosexuals, and the socialists, then it’s all going to be fine, you know? The other pains, well, that’s just life. You will get over it.
This is a safe place to discover God.
That’s the message.
And your sin, well, your sin is being fat, or telling the truth, or having the wrong friends, or just asking questions, or voicing confident opinions, or refusing to put up with bad behavior, or having basic standards of competency, or standing up for other people who are being treated poorly, or wanting to be treated like an equal, or wanting to be respected, or wanting to be loved.
Those other people who mock or threaten or exclude or lie or abuse or hurt or don’t try or don’t listen or don’t care, well, that’s just how they are! They are hurting too, you know? So you need to accept that and better understand them. It’s not like they are like so and so, who believes all the really bad stuff.
But you, you still need to change and preferably stay quiet. Got it? Great!
Over and over and over again.
I have sinned.
I do sin, for real, everyday.
I repent, for real, everyday.
I am far, far from perfect.
I have hurt people, and I do hurt people, and I will hurt people.
But I also have a lot of voices in my head that still say integral parts of me are my sin. Or problems and pains which were not within my control are my sin. Or ways I have been hurt by other people are my fault because of my sin.
So just pardon me when I say that I don’t need to take time at this juncture to ask any more questions about why a large group of people who I already know quite well do what they do or why they think what they think – not right now.
And I don’t need to take personal responsibility for their actions and their beliefs – not right now.
And their ability to change or get better or see truth or repent is not dependent on me saying or doing the “right” things – not right now.
American Christian sub culture is full of the people who are allowed to get away with bad things and it is full of the people who are told to put up with it and stay quiet and just try to understand. And while that all has a tinge of Christ in it, it also leads far too many people into very unhealthy and abusive situations.
But it’s where the good people are, you know?
Well, now it’s my time to be understood.
Now it’s my time to talk.
I won’t make anyone else listen.
I will probably be over here talking like a crazy street preacher on a corner who people briefly stare at, uncomfortably, and then just ignore and move on past.
But I am done being told to shut up and to go along to get along. I am done with thinking that I am the problem just because I cannot stay silent or just because I don’t want to pretend that everything is fine.
Everything is not fine.
I have a lot of questions to ask and I have a lot of growing to do and I have a lot to say.
And I so am going to say it.
And I am not going to apologize for having opinions.
Because right now, it’s my turn to say, “Excuse me, I’m talking.”