Giving Up My Need to Be Right

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“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”
~
Louis C.K.Sarah Joslyn -Uncomfortable Justice3

I have been on an embarrassingly long road toward doing real justice work. 

Embarrassingly long.

The justice work that calls to me is the seemingly radical notion that all people are deserving of equal rights, treatment, pay, opportunity, respect, value, honor and love, no matter the person’s skin color, cultural or ethnic makeup, country of origin, religion, gender, sexuality or economic status.

This is the work I am compelled by my faith in Christ to do.

This is the work I am committed to; and I am doing it wrong at least half of the time.

Am I the right person for this job? No. Not really. But I show up and do it anyway. It is my job as a person of racial and economic privilege to use whatever power I have to make the world a safer and more just place.

Every week I allow myself to look stupid while I learn new components to justice work. What I mean is this: I do not run away after I have done/said a stupid thing. I apologize. I ask for forgiveness. I show up again.

I am not asking for applause or kudos here. I am not proud of myself right now. I am embarrassed that I cannot get enough of this right and oh, how I love to be right.

This is my admission that I am really terrible at justice work and I am going to do it anyway.

Just last week I made an observation out loud that lifted new blinders off my eyes. And I found myself blushing because I was embarrassed to be making this discovery only just now.

I was talking about racism and what I can do about racial justice work and I said to my friend, “My job is to give up my right to look right. I have to give up my self-preservation instinct that says ‘that’s not what I meant’ when I feel I’ve been misunderstood. It doesn’t matter what I meant. It matters how the people I think I am helping feel about my help.”

In that moment I felt like a hundred light switches turned on.

Friends, it’s embarrassing to make an easy discovery so late in the game.

It’s not that I didn’t know this. It’s that I didn’t practice it. My need to look good or right (or at least funny) sits in the back of my mind in nearly every situation in my life. Self-preservation is a tricky little thing. It overreacts. It tells us to fight back. It defends. And sometimes (a lot of the time) it is wrong.

I don’t need to be recognized for my work. I don’t need to wear a T-shirt that announces I am one of the “good ones.” I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I need to be willing to be put in my place and to keep my mouth shut while it happens. I need to be willing to be misunderstood and to just let that be OK.

So, I am here to look stupid for the right thing. I am going to keep fighting for justice, but I am getting rid of my need to look good while I do it. Because, as Louis C.K. says, “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

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Sarah Joslyn
I’m more likely to answer to Sars than Sarah. That’s because years ago my brothers started calling me Sars and, as the name implies, it was infectious. I’m a self-proclaimed writer-photographer-Jesuslover-painter-adventurer-foodie. I have a near obsession with ending injustice and I’m a sucker for a good cause. I blog about life and building a tiny house at sometimesscreaminghelps.com.
Sarah Joslyn
Sarah Joslyn

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Sarah Joslyn
  • Sarah, your words make me ask questions about what I might be avoiding because I’ve made an idol out of being right.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      I always want to be right. But I’m constantly learning how often I am wrong. And to be good at justice work I have to get ok with that.

  • Jamie

    Love this. Very much speaks to my own journey with trying to do justice work… I’m getting it wrong a lot too, but it’s worth learning the lessons. Thanks Sarah!

    • Sarah Joslyn

      I think getting it right would be better and easier. But those lessons along the way are making it easier to get it right faster. Right?

  • I see and hear you, dear Sarah.

    I’m with you on the learning, the not being right, trying again and again.

    Love you and your heart.

    xoxo

    Keep on sister,
    T

    • Sarah Joslyn

      Thank you for being in my tribe with me. Love you, Teen.

  • Oh wow. This is how I feel so often. My embarrassment at doing so little and with such awkwardness keeps me from engaging at all. And that’s not the point, is it? The point is to set aside my own privilege to engage. Thanks for this reminder, Sarah!

    • Sarah Joslyn

      You bet. ❤

  • YES. And yes to the importance of showing up! I think half the battle is to keep showing up, especially when we feel stupid. Thank you!