I’ve been listening, talking, watching, reading, and learning from people reacting to the tragic death of George Floyd a month ago. After months of a pandemic and the weariness of crisis fatigue, many reached a breaking point. Like the Great Migration described in the epic story The Warmth of Other Suns, this was one of “a thousand hurts and killed wishes” that struck a nerve. The central theme has been a call for racial equity in all areas of American life. Protest has become the central statement, the cause, and the voice of change. This core issue has splintered into a number of competing agendas and calls to action. Yet it’s clearly a time to positively shape the conversation we often avoid. How can we find peace among the diverse people who call this nation home? How I treat my Black brothers and sisters reflects my heart and influences how I treat people from all cultures and races. As one person I don’t have all the answers, yet I can lift up my voice to add to the conversation in a helpful way.
I’ve been learning from voices on many sides of the national debate over the last month, including many Black voices. In all the talking, protesting, asking, demanding, questioning, and engaging – I’ve seen the tide of opinion suggest some voices are valued more than others. The voices of those we agree with seem to matter more than others. In some cases, I’m seeing and hearing calls to censor, demean, and even silence voices that disagree with a certain person or group. This path is destructive. It can still lead to sweeping social change, but will it lead to growth as a nation? Or will change be imposed or ignored in a way that will bring us back to this same place 10 years from now? The LA Riots reacting to Rodney King’s beating was back in the spring of 1992, and yet here we are. After all the natural disasters we’ve pulled through, I know we can do better.
To understand these competing interests, I have to take a step closer and see that ALL Black voices have value. All of them. Liberal and conservative; Democrat and Republican; poor and wealthy; secular, religious, and Christian; middle class and elite; civilian and police; calm and loud; child and adult; urban, suburban, and rural; LGBTQ and straight, southern and northern, those who struggle and those who thrive; those with slave roots and the newly arrived; the list goes on… I need to listen to all of these voices in building bridges that lead to constructive change AND growth. It doesn’t mean we have to always agree with each other, because that’s how we learn. However, I do have to value their stories and find a shared space where we can build a better way to live, in peace. I can help find a better way that causes each of us to give and receive something of real value. It doesn’t mean we both get everything we want, yet we can get what we need without trying to coerce each other into a box.
Facts, fear, and force only cause a small percentage of people to make lasting, big changes that will improve their quality of life. People may comply for a time, but when given a chance most revert back to their old ways. Just ask a heart surgeon. Most people only make sustainable change that last through relationships that help change the way they see themselves and their situation as becoming part of a better life. This kind of change is hard work and needs to be anchored in values based on a larger Truth regardless of how I feel in a given moment.
I find myself asking how can I love God AND love people? It’s about forgiving past wrongs AND leaning into issues in ways that move beyond getting what I want to helping people grow. To do this, I need a higher standard of love that is beyond me because my love is often conditional, God’s love is not. The change AND growth I support has to come from love, otherwise it becomes something else.
If we as a nation are going to change for the better AND grow as a people, then ALL voices have to matter. The hard work of change involves learning each other’s stories. It has to be more than a fight with winners and losers. We can find common ground to build on AND resist the temptation of recreating the same problems with a new name and different players. In times such as this, I’m hopeful that together we can leave some of these lingering problems behind.
#changeANDgrow #FindCommonGround #LoveGodLovePeople #CrownClarity