Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's not my job to teach you....

      I keep hearing people say lately, "It's not my job to teach people x".  And yet, I think I come at this slightly differently, so I want to speak for a moment about this from a personal perspective.
      It could be strongly argued that it is not my job to teach men who think that it is okay to beat up on, rape, abuse, cat-call, molest, or otherwise diminish, oppress and stomp down women that what they are doing is harmful.  This is not my job.  If I'm already one being harmed, why should I have the added burden of being the one to try to fix it?  Why should it be my job to also stand up for and try to fix the bad behavior of those who would, or have, harmed me? When I am put in a second class by these folk, why would they listen to what I have to say anyway?  It is not my job to set myself up for more abuse. That is not my job.
      I agree with this so far. I understand why this is true and I agree with it as far as it goes; except for three things, all of which come from a faith perspective.  The first is that we are called to love even our enemies as ourselves. I love what Scott Peck says about what it means to love the other. He says loving the other means working towards the highest spiritual good of the other, helping the other become the best, most full version of themselves. From this perspective, it absolutely IS my job to help even the most hateful, angry, oppressive people to see and understand when what they are doing is harming others. It is my job to love my enemy as myself.  And since loving is wanting their highest good, I am required to help them be the best they can be by seeing the ways they are being hurtful and harmful. I don't think I can say this strongly enough. It may not be my job as a woman to help men see the harm they do to women.  But it is my job as a Christian to be loving towards even those who would do harm.  I know no better way to be loving than through helping others to see.
      Secondly, I deeply believe that while we are separate, we are also all one. This belief is deeply part of every religious and philosophical tradition, and I believe it gets to the root of who we really are as creation. From the Christian tradition, Jesus said it this way (John 17:21-23): "I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. ... I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one." From this perspective, what hurts me also hurts you. And what hurts you also hurts me. Therefore we also have a responsibility from this perspective to help one another grow. It is just not enough to allow you to stay ignorant, hurtful and damaging because in allowing you to stay there, part of me also remains there. Additionally, it is not just me who is harmed by hateful, prejudiced, oppressive attitudes. Others are too. And if I care about them I will stand up for their rights as well.
     Finally, also from a biblical perspective, we are charged to confront damaging behavior.  Or again, to say it as Jesus said it, (Matthew 18:15):  "If your brother or sister does damage against you, go and correct them...."  This does require acknowledging the common humanity of all of us that causes me to see even my enemies as my brothers and sisters, but we are called to start with this understanding.
      I understand that people will disagree with me here.  And, of course, you are free to do so.  But again from a very personal perspective, I am deeply, deeply grateful to those who have confronted my prejudices, my lack of vision, and my mistakes.  I know I am on a journey and that I cannot, have not, and will not get it all right.  So for those who have taken the time to point out my mistakes, who have called me on my stuff, who have helped me to see, I am grateful beyond words.  You have made me who I am, you have helped me to grow, you have helped me on my way to following the path of Love, Hope, Justice and Peace more fully.  I am also aware of other times when people of faith have said "I'm not going to tell her she's wrong. That's not my job." And I will tell you with honesty that those comments have been the most hurtful ones I have known because that statement makes me "other" - not even in the same creation enough to be the enemy that we are called to love, the enemy that is confronted, the enemy we are called to care for. That statement moves me beyond being recognized as on the same journey and puts me in a category of "beyond hope, beyond reconciliation, beyond learning".  It fails to see my humanity since if it had been seen, the other would have taken the time to "love their enemy" and to "confront the one who sinned against you".
      It is not my job to teach you.  Except that, from a faith perspective, it IS my job to teach you.  I pray that you will find the same faith to continue to teach me, despite the fact that I may not deserve your time and attention.  For without your help, without your insight, without your teaching, I cannot grow, I cannot do better, and I am lost along the way.