In this world, Jesus said, you will have trouble.
2020 has seen its’ fair share of it.
Jesus assures us that we can take heart in his act of overcoming the world, but his followers are still enlisted as kingdom-bringers, as much of heaven on earth as possible.
Trouble and problems.
We humans get stuck in the middle of them. And we take on three familiar personas at various times.
All of us, in various ways, have been hurt by someone other than ourselves, and it wasn’t our fault at all. We’re all victims.
To complicate our situation, we can easily fall into a “poor me” victim mindset, which hinders us in all kinds of ways, one of which is that we fail to take responsibility for the things we can change.
All of us, in other ways, have hurt others, and we shouldn’t have, and we must take responsibility for it, sooner or later. We’re all Victimisers.
To complicate our situation, we can easily fall into a “bad me” kind of guilt and shame, which paralyzes us in all kinds of ways, one of which is that we fail to change the things about ourselves, because we believe that part of us (or us as a whole) to be ‘bad’.
All of us, at various times, have had opportunity or have tried to help when we see someone who has been hurt. We’re all rescuers.
To complicate things, we can easily fall into a “great me” mindset of heroic helpfulness, which can distort and warp the ways in which we try to help, two of which are a) to help in ‘token’ ways that don’t really help, or b) to help in ways that make those we are trying to help dependent on our help.
I’ve been thinking about this ordinary human triangle in relation to the horrible trouble that is dominating our news feeds at present with regard to race, violence, privilege, guilt, power, empathy and change.
The real, painful and horrifically persistent victimhood of African Americans by racism is justifiably and understandably our global focus right now, even if others continue to be victims of other things. It would be easy for the victim mentality to paralyze many African Americans. I admire the strength and resilience of those within African American communities who call one another to draw together their strength and be agents of change – both in relation to their own community and the external threat of racism. Simply inspiring.
Racism is a real, subtle, and powerful form of victimisation. Many people have taken the honest course of admitting their unconscious, subconscious or other layers of racism. Others point to the reality of such things as “white guilt”, as we feel various levels of responsibility for both the existence and persistence of racism. I admire the prophetic and creative ways that we are trying our best to help one another face the racism that we all are likely to have at some level. Difficult. Painstaking. Absolutely essential.
One of the ways we who feel guilt over our participation in racism can respond is by trying to help. We act as rescuers. We want to be seen as those who are on the “right side” of the issue. With the issue flaring up on social media, we share articles, change our profile pictures and express solidarity with the victims of racism. I am inspired and challenged by wise voices that challenge us to take our help far beyond the bandwagon of sudden compassion. Our ethic for protecting human dignity must be consistent and comprehensive.
When I am a victim, Lord protect me from the victim mentality that would hinder me from doing what I can to change my situation.
When I am a victimiser, Lord strengthen my repentance and guard me from the forms of shame that trap me from the transformation I need.
When I try to help, Lord, deepen and sharpen my compassion to go beyond gesture, and lead me to walk alongside people to participate together in change.
Make me strong, humble and helpful.