The Other Side of Resistance
Have you found yourself resisting recently? In other words, fighting against, or refusing to accept any number of the unacceptable conditions of our times? Let’s face it. There are countless pressures, problems and prejudices today worthy of our resistance. More and more of us are resisting, each in our own ways, and doing so with persistence. And thank goodness that we are.
Today, however, I am wondering about the other side of this growing resistance. Nothing is one-sided in the yin-yang nature of the world. For instance, my own resistance — each letter or call to my elected representatives, every email or post or protest sign I dash off saying “no more” in these or other words – each one is saying “yes” to something else, though it often remains unnamed.
What makes up the other side of your resistance, spoken or unspoken? And will it be enough to support you when the walls you are resisting come tumbling down? Is your resistance building up more than the strength needed in the struggle for social change? Is it also inviting you to love and be loved? Which is to say, is it developing, in addition to the toned and hardened muscles of activism, also the vulnerable capacity to be changed, too?
I am realizing lately, that for all our emphasis on resistance, we sometimes fail to consider that its other side is surrender. Who wants to think about that? Can you imagine a hashtag saying #nevertheless she surrendered?
And yet, resistance requires surrender, if to nothing more than the demands of being a resistor. The question is, to what or to whom are we surrendering – and is it enough? Will it sustain us in the long haul? Will it support the changes we seek in the world over time and keep them from mimicking the status quo? Possibly not, if we’re not ready to be changed ourselves.
For some of us, our communities of faith offer us a net of relationships and wider meaning in which our resistance is nested. At their best, communities of faith can give us a place to incubate and hatch our better selves. Other folks have intentionally created different forms of community to foster similarly trustworthy kinship and ground. Any of these can breed the tenderness of heart that makes personal transformation possible alongside the social change we strive for in the world.
In what larger yes is your resistance nested? To whom or to what have you surrendered, or given your heart? Does it support both your resistance and your capacity for loving relationship? Does it open space for wondering about the larger mysteries of life and love? Is it a yes that unites your whole being – your anger and your compassion, your fears and your loves, your fierceness and your tenderness? If not, where might you give yourself to a larger yes that invites your whole self to come forward even while your resistance shouts, “no more”?
Twentieth-century theologian Howard Thurman said that our commitment to any cause or movement is an act of surrender that will energize and vitalize our lives, regardless of the nature (or the ethical merit) of the cause. It matters, then, to know and name what we are surrendering to, and to consider whether it is worthy of our life’s most energetic yes.
If you are engaged in the work of resistance today – and I hope on some level you are – ask yourself, what is the larger yes that gives energy and passion to your resistance? And are you in relationship or community with others who give your yes greater life and vibrancy? If so, how might an even deeper commitment to these relationships nurture and sustain you as the struggle goes on? And if not, where might you find such companions or community? To what larger relationship might you give your whole heart? And what might be possible, when you do?
To write about these questions, you might begin with the following prompts and follow wherever they lead:
When I say no to __________, I am also saying yes to . . . .
Giving my whole heart to _____________ . . . .