To begin this week’s blog, I’m going to indulge in a moment of narcissism. I wrote an article this week for the front page of the Not For Sale website! Check it out!
Ok, I’m done. Just had to share my excitement with you a bit. Thanks for indulging me.
Moving on, then. This week was very quiet. A lot of the staff went off to Soulfest on the east coast, and then on Wednesday another group, including Natalie and Mandolyn, went off to Spirit West Coast. So not only was the office empty, the house was pretty quiet too with only Luz and me there. It was a little weird to do my work with all my supervisors out of the office, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of things more. There are still several questions I have to e-mail off to them, but overall I’m starting to feel more confident with my tasks.
And now I’m going to wax philosophical. I hope you don’t mind. I’d like to share something with you on which I’ve been meditating for a while. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes the following:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
I’d like to add a couple observations of my own to this list (don’t worry, I have no delusions that my thoughts are canonical or divinely inspired, I’m just thinking out loud).
If I have righteous anger towards the doers of wrong in the world, but I have not love, I have nothing. If I am sensible of the many blessings I have been given and understand the obligation I have to invest them well, but I have not love, I have nothing.
In terms of being an abolitionist, I think it’s important for us to remember, even for those of us who are not Christian, that we should be doing this work out of love for the oppressed, not out of guilt or a desire to prove ourselves to be good people or out of righteous anger. I started thinking about this because I realized that whenever I told people about my involvement in the anti-trafficking movement, I would say, “I started reading about it, and I started getting angry.” Which was quite true. I have very vivid memory of one night, my sophomore year, when I’d gone on a research binge, and ended up wandering around campus, in the dark, with tears of anger and guilt running down my face. I was so disgusted at a world that thought this sort of thing is ok, and I felt so culpable for being part of the mechanism of consumerism that victimizes so many people. And I started thinking that these feelings aren’t enough to see me through this fight.
Don’t get me wrong. I think both righteous anger at the world’s injustice and a healthy sense of obligation to use one’s resources well are both perfectly appropriate and healthy feelings. But they need to be kept in proper proportion, and they should never become the primary motivating factors in a fight of this scale and length. Anger burns quickly, and if that’s your primary motivator, you will burn out. Similarly, too much guilt can become paralyzing because it shifts the focus from helping other to helping yourself.
So in the moments when I’m feeling burnt out, I think it’s important for me to try to recenter my focus and concentrate on loving those whom I am helping. It is love that will give me the motivation I need to see this through to the end, not any other emotion, sensibility, or conviction, however valid it may be.
Until next week,