Love over Fear
Will you choose love over fear?
I can’t think of a better time than now to think introspectively. This weekend, a small team and I will journey across the world. We will visit a country where because of a long history of religious oppression, my faith background is less than 3 percent. There is no better time for me to walk as a person in the minority than right now. Even if only for one week. Our mission is to let fear know it is not the boss of us. In the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, it’s easy to let fear in. To let it rule our minds and hearts and actions.
But we have to remember that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is always fear.
“If what you saw this week didn’t shatter you, you’re not paying attention”. This was the last thing that Heather Heyer wrote on her Facebook page before she lost her life standing up for love and fighting against Nazi’s on U.S soil. I’ve thought about her many times this week. My heart and prayers go out to her family. She is a hero.
If you feel what I feel; shaky knees, trembling heart, wondering aloud what our world is coming to, moving closer to a stone cold heart, and starting to believe that people are inherently bad, then I want you to read this.
My instinct in a time of tragedy is to do-do-do. To get to work. To sift my sadness through the filter of tasks so that I inevitably ignore what is boiling up. It’s a blessing and a curse, and I’m working on it. Strong women do this often, but we weren’t born this way. Something brought us here. That something was not a silver spoon or a lifetime of privilege, it was not taking the easy road, or having things handed to us. No, strong women walked through the fire to get where they are. It means they’ve done love well, and they’re working hard to put as much love back into the world as they can. Because at some point in a strong woman's life she was faced with one question: Will you choose love over fear?
I’ve had to answer this question in many ways over and over and over again. I’m sure you have too--we all do. This isn’t a question that surpasses any adult person that’s breathing real air. When tragedy hits, it has become our instinct to get to work. We almost don’t even have to think twice about what to do. Our challenge isn’t getting to work, it’s sitting still long enough to know the most effective way to do our work. I told you I'm working on myself, so that’s why I let things settle before I wrote you this letter.
This is important to me. As I know it is all of you. I see what you are writing online. I hear what you are saying at the dinner table. I’m only here to offer a slightly different opinion than what I’ve seen this week. It is my understanding both from experience and doing research that the media controls a lot of what we believe to be facts. I have been on the opposite side of a twisted media frenzy. I have no words for the tiki torch carrying idiots that led a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville. That kind of evil is not something I can comprehend. But the words I have are for those who are watching the news, listening to our President and wondering can this really be true? Have we really arrived to this place as a country? And what is next? My words are for white people who feel attacked and are wondering if reverse racism exists. My words are for brown people, black people, and women who feel empowered that finally their voices are being heard. My words are for those that are just seeking truthful media, and leaders of our great nation that will serve us well and maybe not use Twitter as a means to announce important policy change or just filter his speeches through the “ If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” motto. My words are those people that feel like their biracial and dark skinned children are growing up in more challenging times than they did. My words are for those people who are like me, privileged and sometimes marginalized, for those living in conditions that most of us readers could not fathom, and for everyone in between.
One of my favorite sayings is “Mother Theresa did not walk around worrying about her thigh gap, she had shit to do.” That describes a lot of you. Mamas, you come to mind. You are endlessly, and selflessly putting everyone around you first. You’re doing all-the-things to make sure your family is well loved, well fed, and given opportunities. THAT is all we want for the people we love, right? Likely, lots of you have forgotten about yourself or the 24 hours in a day aren’t enough to feed your people, love them, bathe them, give them the world, and the paint your nails and have a moment alone to breathe. By the time 9pm rolls around, all you want to do is crawl in bed. It’s because the doers of the world are on a mission. We have people to love and feed and take care of.
I know there’s something to be said for people who do-do-do. But in times like these, I have to think again. My version of doing, (when the Nazi KKK terrorists attack our people) is to call a family dinner. To gather all my people and remind them they are loved and seen. And then say, okay we need to talk about this. We need to look each other in the eyes and have real, meaningful conversations around a meal. Because people who are well loved, well fed, have a safe place to sleep, and who are given an opportunity, don’t go out into the streets with evil in their hearts seeking violence. I am not a scientist, but I am willing to place a bet on that.
And I have learned that the best way to offer the world any blessings, is to start right in your own home.
The activist in me awakens and I just can’t bare to sit with the pain. I try to distract my own sadness with something I can do. There’s nothing wrong with this method, per say, but it’s not the most effective way to get things done.
I think it’s the second ste we all need to take in times like these. I don’t think there is a better time for me to hop on a flight across the world to visit our friends who are marginalized. Because, dear reader, we live in a world that is watching. There is no denying that. And I want my response to evil to always be more love. I’m not suggesting a type of love that ignores evil and feels frivolous in the wake of tragedy. I’m not talking about the kind of love that presents itself in cute, well meaning but harmful Christian quotes that sound like “God’s plan is the best plan.” Guys, we have to stop saying this in times of tragedy. This is revealing your privilege and offers zero hope. Timing is everything when it comes to words.
I don’t believe God ordains these things. I couldn’t worship a god like that. Rather, I believe God takes all pain and continually molds it into beauty. What we’re all saying in the middle of a tragedy, whether on a personal, national or global level, is a deep longing that IF these horrible things have to happen, that something good could come of it. That is the beauty of my faith...it’s promised that nothing dies without bringing new life, too.
Love does not mean rainbows and sunshine every single day. Love does not mean for us to ignore the face of evil and pretend it doesn’t exist especially when it does not directly affect us. No, love means some days are harder than others, sweat and grime, tears, hands that are covered in dirt and hard work. I’m talking about the kind of love that doesn’t feel like butterflies. The kind of love that calls us to the unknown, that helps us survive on the brink of insanity. The kind of love that requires bravery, to step into the day EVEN though you’re knees are shaky, your heart is beating, and you’re scared.
When Nazi and KKK terrorists use evil to hurt people, our weapon of defense is to unite. We can not be split apart by this. We can’t look at each other and say, “Who is white and who is brown and choose your side accordingly.” Evil has one side: EVIL. And we certainly can not be spectators, identifiers, watchers, and do-nothingers in times like this.
On Saturday, myself and three other women will fly to a place that has historically been robbed of opportunity and oppressed because of poverty, and we will say FEAR is NOT our leader - love is. Not because it is easy but because that is what love requires of us. And in order to receive big love, you must first give it away. That is how love works. It multiples as you give it away.
We are four women of different backgrounds and different heritages, stepping into a country that is not our own. And we will be welcomed with loving arms. We won’t look or speak
like anyone else. We won’t fit in. We will likely be looked at as foreigners. People will wonder
what our motives are. And we will simply walk in peace reminding the watching world that even though the media is showing a part of our country acting amuck, it does not mean that our entire country believes and behaves that way.
Friends, I say this because it is so important not to move in the direction of fear or panic in times like these. Fear always robs us of our lives and our freedom. And I don’t want to go down that way.
But what I’m about to tell you comes from a place of paying attention.
I’m a biracial female raised by a white mother and a black father. Both parents did everything to give me opportunity in life. I went to a predominately white private school where I received an education that has opened doors for me to succeed. I have never known a time in life where I was not in the minority. And it is single-handedly the greatest gift my parents could have given me. I’m not a product of having been marginalized. Yes, I am a woman and a woman of color. But because I was fortunate to have grown up in a family and community that was able to take care of its people, I’m a product of opportunity. I won’t pretend to understand what it means to be marginalized every day of my life, having no resources or a strong willing community to turn to. I did and have experienced occasions of marginalization in the form of racism and gender bias. Three of those times were in middle and high school when a child is still deciding who she is. But I wasn't defined by those experiences because I went home to a family who was paying attention. We talked about racism. We talked about how to handle being different. When you're born into a family that doesn't look like you, you start asking questions at a young age.
I married an above average successful white man who can’t for the life of him understand how and why racism still exists, but would never claim that it doesn’t. Just this year he had to speak to a coworker about racist remarks that were made right in front of him. He would tell you he has never experienced racism. He is just now beginning to comprehend his own privilege. But he knows that you don’t have to experience marginalization, in order to know right from wrong. He knows that as a upper class, white man from Kentucky his voice matters. And he wants me to tell you whatever your skin color, and wherever you are from; yours does too.
He decided to love me in high school when he could have thought it was too much of a risk or too uncomfortable. He could have been worried about what his parents and grandparents might’ve thought, but he knew early on that his choice was love over fear.
We pray about raising a family where our children of color have the same opportunities that both of us did, children that don’t see skin color as a means to division or segregation. We are not born racist. All evil is learned; therefore, the hope is that it can also be unlearned. We want our children to pay attention. We want them to walk into the lunchroom and identify the kid sitting alone. And the--this is where it is important--we do not want our child to just identify the lonely kid and go about his business. We want our child to GO AND MAKE THAT CHILD FEEL LESS LONELY.
That is the kind of child we want to raise. We have thought long and hard about this. To us, there are only two options: To be kind and brave or not to be. Therefore, identifying the marginalized and the lonely and the poor and the weak is not enough. And if it's not enough in the lunchroom for children, it is not enough anywhere else as an adult.
It’s a part of the problem and it’s not kind or brave to just be spectators of the lonely. To thoughtfully wish marginalized people well or to feel bad for them and do nothing about it is being apart of the problem. Pity is not a solution.
The action doesn’t have to be grandiose. It doesn’t have to call for attention. It doesn’t need to be posted about on Twitter. We don’t wish for our child to announce to the lunchroom that he is doing a kind act. But only to go ask the lonely kid if it would be okay if they had lunch together.
That’s it. That’s all we want for our children. To be kind and to be brave in the midst of fear. Always.
I can remember being the girl who identified the lonely in the lunchroom. I saw them, I had pity, and I sat with my friends most days. That was not kind and that was not brave. I wasn’t a bully, but I was also not a friend. And I lived a very long time believing that was okay.
To react blindly to what has happened in Charlottesville because you are unaffected is to join the side of fear. We cannot sit on our couches and be consumers of evil while also pretending it does affect us. The only kind and brave thing to do is to identify the lonely and get closer to them. That’s the definition of shaky knees and doing it anyways. That is choosing love over fear. And that is what you'd want any child to do for yours, if you knew they were sitting alone in the lunchroom. You would just want one kid to see yours and say, “ Hey, I see you. Can we eat together”?
I don’t think the Lord calls us to not be afraid. I think the Lord calls us to feel the fear and do it anyways. So my call to anyone who calls himself a person of faith, or who prays a little prayer before dinnertime, or whoever uses the word “God” is that instead of ignoring what is happening, be bold.
Which leads to me why taking action should not be a knee-jerk reaction but a thought out, talked about plan.
We don't expect our children to intuitively know that lonely people are lonely. We will need to teach them. We will tell them before school starts that maybe they'll see someone being picked on or sitting alone in the lunchroom. And we will tell them that it’s okay to go sit with them. To ask them their name and look in their eyes. We will tell them it might feel funny inside to do this. And that feeling is called fear, but that fear is never a good enough reason to do or not do anything. Fear is not our leader. Love is. It is always easier to do these things on the first day of school than it is to wait until the middle of the year. The longer we wait, the harder it gets. But not matter when we start, it is just important to start. We will tell our children this and we will make sure they see their parents doing it, too. Because we know that it doesn’t really matter what we say to our children sometimes. It matters, what they see us doing.
So what I think black people, brown people, women, LGBTQ people, any group of people that has been marginalized is saying IS NOT that white people are the enemy. It's that they feel alone. It's that they've searched high and low for a place to be well fed, well loved, and given the same opportunities but they can not find that place. I think what they are saying is that the establishments our country has in place (like churches and government) to keep all people well fed, well loved, and given an opportunity aren’t doing that for the marginalized. And they are begging for a change. And I believe that we can learn from our history and make way for people without privilege.
Because I consider myself to have had more privilege and more opportunity than I would have had if I had gone to a different school or lived in a different neighborhood, or had a different family, I have to ask a tough question: Have you experienced more privilege than you have marginalization? If you're answer is yes, are you a part of the problem or the solution?
There is no time better than now to decide. We cannot blindly ignore that there has been an atmosphere of hatred in our country. I only learned this when I stepped outside of my cute, privileged bubble and accepted that the world exists outside of my own experiences. And I now know that fighting for human rights means this: if I fight for my own right to go to bed safe, well fed, and given an opportunity then I better be fighting for everyone's right to go to bed safe, well fed, and given an opportunity.
And finally, here's what I know about my readers: you all don't like segregation. You oppose evil, racism, and hatred. And you certainly want love over fear. You read what I write because it resonates deep within your bones. You believe in the fight for humanity.
But there are a lot of people that go to bed believing they have no bone in this fight. And they do nothing, say nothing, change nothing.
But will you stand in the gap with me?
Will you recognize your privilege and chose love over fear? I can't tell you how many times I hear that our country is divided. Well, let's do some math.
If 1,000 of you read this. And 1,000 of you go home and love your families hard and have brave and kind conversations with each other about finding the lonely and being near them. We can do some multiplication. When our families know how to be kind and brave, they go out into the world and show others how to be kind and brave and before we know it, we've created an atmosphere of acceptance that’s spread from 1,000 to hundreds of thousands.
All we have to do is our one tiny part. And ask ourselves, am I choosing love over fear?
Sometimes, friends, the only way we learn is to allow ourselves to just completely fall apart. To stop chasing our addiction to be right and start just being humble. In the midst of pain we chose love over fear.
That is the only way to freedom.
My suggestion to you is this: If you are in the privileged category, most middle to upper class white Americans are, if you needed a hint, and you don’t have ANY friends that don’t look like you, talk like you, believe like you, or live the same way you do----> GO MAKE FRIENDS THAT DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU, TALK LIKE YOU, BELIEVE LIKE YOU, OR LIVE THE SAME WAY YOU DO.
This can be our first effective step towards being united. We can’t continue saying we are so divided and blame our political leaders, when we are doing nothing to love and understand those that aren’t like us. If there is a gap to be filled, which I believe there is, WE MUST BE THE ONES THAT FILL IT.
I LOVE YALL. I really do.