There’s a lot of hay being made about the manners in which people are calling out other people to call them to a right way of being in this world. Whether a man of the cloth, a politician, or simply a next-door neighbor, we all should be open to correction and guidance when we are straying from the path of righteousness.
Let me state clearly, I’m not a religious person. I grew up with the Bible but have left organized religion behind. I still find there are lessons that ring as truthful. Lessons which, when not weaponized as a tool of supremacy, can help us become better human beings. Competent human beings. I want to take a minute to refer to a piece of scripture that I think is important and meaningful to our way of being in the world. For my brothers and sisters who are triggered and offended by the usage of scripture, I implore you to listen with an open heart and pray that my words do not cause your heart grief.
Matthew 18: 15-17
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Whew. There’s a lot to unwrap there. This will be me, trying to interpret this as a truth of which we can avail ourselves in order to have a more peaceful way of being with each other.
This town is currently experiencing the most medieval kind of politics I think I have ever seen. Neighbor being turned against neighbor. Lines being drawn that create deeper divides than those we have historically been subjected to. We live in a time where one’s who are calling out the truth, and begging for accountability, are belittled and reprimanded for not being more inclusive. Yet I find almost every group making this accusation to be just as guilty of being exclusive in their approach to ‘community building’.
It is extremely important that we call each other back to a righteous and proper way of being in this community. When our neighbors deny us the opportunity to have that conversation with them in private, we are exhorted to take our evidence of their harms to a group of several. And if they still do not give way to a conversation regarding their harms, we are exhorted to take it further. If they choose to ignore the call to become more righteous, we are to shake the dust off our shoes and move on.
In Ojibwe teachings, Kitch-sabe (Sasquatch in Coast Salish) is the being that calls us to be honest. Kitch-sabe travels into our communities to let us know that we are straying from honesty and need to be called back.
It’s one thing when you are talking about calling out your neighbors. It is another thing when you are talking about calling out the decision makers, people who hold power, and so-called leaders. They should be held to a higher standard, with an obligation to be open to criticism and to hear the grievances that their actions have visited upon those who are subject to the effects of their decision making. We rarely get to have personal conversations with them. The public forums we have access to are the only routes to calling out wrong.
A minister who builds a multi-million dollar facility that supposedly honors God, but refuses to make that sacred house available to people suffering from a disaster NEEDS to be reminded of how he has strayed from the calling to serve people, in the name of God. It is a Christian principle to call him out. It shouldn’t have to be explained to Christians. If he refuses to listen, he must be ignored.
A politician who refuses to acknowledge the harm their decisions have and will visit upon the community NEEDS to be reminded of their straying from the purpose of serving people in the name of democracy. It is a sign of community integrity to be able to call out your politicians and have your voice heard. It is a basis of a strong democracy. When he/she doesn’t listen, they must be removed.
All need to be open to being called back to honesty and open to course-correction.
This is not an act of hate. It is the following of an exhortation to hold each other accountable. We can tend to go sideways in this action when we let our frustration get the best of us. I have been guilty of being too harsh in my criticisms, of thinking myself too clever in my dressing down of others, that I have forgotten the cardinal rule to treat others with kindness. When we let anger rule the conversation, we can lose the lesson.
Sometimes anger is a very appropriate tool to create a break in the bubble people build around themselves. We must learn to use that anger responsibly. It is a fine art, to be able to hold each other accountable without being punitive. Anger and frustration are absolutely normal emotional responses to those who refuse to give way to course-correction. We must be willing to apologize for the unnecessary words that come out when we are angry and to smooth out the pain so that we can find our way to understanding. We have to create space for people to voice their anger and space for them to walk it back.
I will give you some words from a wise Indigenous woman that I think can teach us all something very powerful.
“If you have hard truths to offer up to someone, make sure the voices is soft, the language beautiful, and protect the dignity of the other. When the storm clears, make sure you all see sunshine.” Lee Maracle
This is not difficult once you embark upon the path of embodying this. And it’s not weakness to use a soft voice and beautiful language. In fact, there is a special strength attached to controlling the voice so that it is soft and selecting the words that are beautiful. It means that you have stepped just on the other side of the anger into the in-between space where anger is compassion.
There is so much at stake in this community. We should be working to smooth out the lines that divide us and find commonality. It’s not building bridges, because the bridge signifies the distinct demarcation lines. I believe that we can erase these borders and learn to live with each other in awareness of the different topographies of our communities.
I hope and intend for honesty and truth to come to the forefront of our conversations and to be more powerful than politics-as-usual.