Go and do

There are days when I’m very critical. I get mad at the world, angry at political commentators, frustrated with the general state of our country and other countries. I sit around and fuss about the government and about people and I come up with a list a mile long of all the things everyone is doing incorrectly.

The government shouldn’t have to be the one we turn to in order to help the poor, people should.

Controversial words slapped on pictures hold way too much sway on the current generation.

No one fact checks.

Everyone hyperbolizes.

The rich don’t give enough.

The poor don’t do enough.

See? I could go at this all day, pointing out everything that other people are doing poorly. I could probably create an entire game plan on how to fix everything and submit it to the President if I wanted to. There’s a problem though: sitting on my rear end being critical doesn’t do a single thing. Nothing is going to change because I sit around complaining all day.

It comes down to a phrase that the Christian writer, activist, and hugger Bob Goff uses and I always come back to:

Love does.

The love I have for this world isn’t going to be expressed through a detailed critique of everything other people are doing incorrectly. The love I have for people isn’t going to come through the more I sit around yelling at the government or yelling at the wealthy to help people. My love isn’t even truly expressed through writing these words and posting them on a blog. The love I have for this world and all of the people in it can only be expressed in doing.

Maybe I write well, maybe I’m good at pushing through logical fallacies and calling people out on their bull, maybe I’m really clever and smart and can humiliate those who disagree with me. Ultimately none of these things matter because I’m not actually doing what I’m called to do. See, I’m not doing and that is the key.

So instead of lobbying for a certain political position or piece of legislation, maybe I should put that money and time toward helping families. Instead of complaining about the failing education system in this country, I could jump into it and reach into the lives of kids who are struggling. Maybe instead of condemning young women who have had sex and are pregnant and looking for an escape, I can come alongside them and walk them through the process and whatever process they choose let them know that they are loved through it all.

Why do all of this? Because Jesus has walked with me through my hardest times, through my darkest patches, and continues to pick me up when I fall.  He does. His love manifests itself through the people that step into my life with encouraging words, who come alongside me and tell me that it is okay to not have a job and that God has a plan, who tell me I will kill it in graduate school, and who insist that I can be a powerful force in the world if I just let myself be.  

I don’t think my life has ever been genuinely impacted by anything less than the people around me doing something. Actions speak louder than words and I believe actions carry the message a lot further. 

Why I Gave up on Politics

You might not know it by looking at me, but I used to be really into politics.

I grew up in a household where politics were a constant. My dad was always watching the news, giving his own commentary on the events of the day. I remember when I was four years old and would run into my dad’s room and jump on him to wake up him, only to end up lying in bed listening to Rush Limbaugh. I was raised to be interested in politics.

So when Twitter became a thing, and political commentators and activists took to it to make their points known, so did I. I started a blog and started listening to radio shows online. I began to show up to meetings in my area and went to protests. I made signs, showed up, and walked around to try and make a point. I put in a lot of time and effort to educate myself on the issues, and did my best not to feel hurt when people hurled insults at me.

I met some amazing people who are still my friends to this day and are people I consider to be family. I got to experience a lot of cool things (including meeting a US Congressman). All in all, I don’t regret the time spent engaging in politics because it gave me a lot of experience and a lot of perspective.

However, there came a point where I just stopped. Somewhere along the way I realized that all of the energy I was putting into political dialogue wasn’t doing any good. Instead, it was doing a lot of harm in my everyday relationships. At some point I had begun to put “being right” over being in relationship and noticed some people had backed away from our friendship. When I saw that a couple people I’d been trying to reach out to and establish a relationship with had unfriended me on Facebook and didn’t seem interested in engaging with me anymore, I knew I’d stepped over a line.

That began the slow process of learning that relationships come first, even when I disagree with someone.

Today, I still engage in political discourse when it is appropriate. My friends and I will get into lively discussions about what we think and why we think it, but we do it in such a way that relationship comes first. If someone feels attacked we will stop and move on to something else. We give up the right to be right, for the sake of maintaining a friendship.

This makes the most sense to me because thus far I’ve come to one conclusion about politics: Everyone is wrong and no one wins. Why? Because in American politics it is about crushing your opponent, not working to understand them. It is about opinions, not facts. Both sides, all sides, only care about one thing and unfortunately that thing is not what they should be caring about which is people. We sacrifice relationship, we sacrifice loving our neighbor, because we have an opinion that we think is right and we refuse to back down from it. Instead of changing the world we live in and changing lives, we hurt and alienate people.

So put relationship first. That’s how we’ll change the world.