A lot of anger is floating around out there. I’m not talking about the anger that stems from the lack of access to healthcare or the injustice that black people in our society still face.
I’m speaking of the anger that comes from the many people whose only sense of worth has come from the idea that they are “better than” because they are white…or straight…or male…or Christian. Now they are being told by way too many voices to ignore that it is simply not true. They are not better–and the world isn’t going to tolerate them acting as if they are any longer.
I believe this loss of feeling “better than” is what is at the heart of many of the bizarre melt-downs we’re seeing on our phones and televisions. A white lady begins screaming at a brown-skinned woman in a convenience store to go back to where she came from (turns out the young woman was Native American, so…). Another white woman calls the police on a black birdwatcher because he asked her to follow the rules of the park and leash her dog. A white man just hauls off and hits a black trans woman.
Don’t get me wrong. These are all racist/homophobic, fear-motivated events, but I still think at the heart of these extreme reactions is the grief over the loss of feeling superior to people who are “other.”
It’s like when church members have a knock-down, drag-out fight about what color to paint the Sunday school rooms. It’s never about paint. It’s almost always about things changing in the church. Things that make a longtime church member feel like they are losing control over “their” church and are helpless to do anything about it. So they pitch a fit about whether or not the rooms should be ecru or eggshell (btw, this color argument actually happened in a church a colleague of mine served). But it’s never really about the paint.
Our whole world is changing…and for the better in SO many ways! But change is always hard. The shifts everyone is having to make because of the pandemic is enough all by itself, but couple all that with the #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and #pride movements becoming mainstream, rather than fringe, and it’s enough to push some straight, white, “family values” people right over the edge.
Add to that the plunging approval numbers of a president who made sexism, racism and xenophobia “great again,” and you’ve get recipe for a serious identity crisis for a good portion of the population.
People who feel enough don’t need others to be less-than
So perhaps part of our efforts to eradicate racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia should be to help all people see that their value and worth need not come from a false sense of superiority, but from a deeply held belief that they are worthy just by virtue of who they are…and Whose they are.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!1 John 1:3a
People who truly feel that they are enough have no need to make others feel less-than. People who feel like they are enough are always willing to learn and grow because they can admit they don’t know everything. They’ve got nothing prove. They’re already enough.
So in addition to standing up and speaking out, to protesting and petitioning, to magnifying the voices of the oppressed and making sure the least of these are cared for, let’s also get behind helping all people (even those whose white fragility causes them to be offended by the term “white fragility”) feel heard and worthy and enough. That may be one of our best tools in helping eradicate the hate they give.
The battle for equality and justice and reconciliation is one that must be waged on many fronts. Hurt people hurt people. Healed people healed people. And people who know they are enough have no need to imagine others as less-than.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.
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