Posted by: smstrouse | March 4, 2017

Avoiding Resistance Burn-Out

resitanceIf there’s one thing we know, it’s that our resistance against the dismantling of our democracy is going to be a long haul. I hate to use war imagery, but it seems appropriate to say that we are waging a war with innumerable fronts: health care, the environment, the rights of women, immigrants and refugees, transgender people, Black people, Muslim people, scientists, etc., etc., etc. My email inbox overflows with petitions, calls for letter-writing and phone-calling – and of course, requests for donations.I’m approaching burn-out. And from what I hear from others, I’m not an isolated case.

So here’s the thing, members of the resistance: we have to develop a strategy for the long haul. I’ve been giving this some thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with for both my own activism and my own sanity.

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  • Choose your battles. It will be impossible to sustain energy for every one of the fronts under attack by the current regime. I suggest picking one, two, or three (however many you have the ability to make an impact) and put your efforts into those. I find that I am most passionate about women’s issues and countering anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about all the other despicable actions being taken in other areas. I will join in resisting those as I’m able. But my main focus will be in my two primary choices. This also means that I’m going to have to trust that people of good will are stepping up and putting their effort into the areas they’re most passionate about. And I will give them my full endorsement and encouragement. We are truly all in this together.
  • safe_image-phpFind your community. The resistance can’t be waged solely on an individual basis. Collaboration is the name of the game. Not only is it more effective in getting things done, it’s also better for morale to be among those working for the same goals. As Robert Fulghum wrote in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”
  • Be positive. I know, this is a hard one. But Michelle Obama had it right: “When they go low, we go high.” We need to keep our language civil and stop hurling epithets at those with whom we disagree. As a Christian, I need to continually remind myself of the belovedness of each and every person in the eyes of God. That does not mean I have to condone their behavior. But if I truly believe that the presence of divinity in each person means that there is always the possibility of transformation, then I must include even He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
  • Rely on your spiritual practice. This might be prayer or meditation. It might also be getting out into nature, immersing yourself in writing, music or art. This isn’t an escape from the world; it’s part of how we are called to be in the world.

    Take the example of Vedran Smailović. During the siege of Sarajevo, Smailović, a former cellist in the Sarajevo Stringevstafiev-bosnia-cello Quartet, played in the midst of the ruins of the city. I can’t think of a more powerful expression of prayer. His example is a reminder to me of the power of beauty and wonder in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.

    So whatever gets you in touch with something bigger than yourself and inspires your soul – do it. It will be the fuel that will fire your imagination and energize your resistance. And when you need a boost, watch this video. I’ve seen it many times and it inspires every time.

We don’t have the luxury of burning out.
We must keep the fire of resistance burning – together!

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