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You Try Too Hard

“You’re too idealistic.”

“That’s not realistic.”

“That’s naive.”

“You try too hard.”

“You’re too emotional.”

These are phrases I’ve heard over and over and over again, my whole life. I don’t know why, but injustice has always bothered me. As a little kid, I remember the burning feeling in my face when I watched a teacher wrongly accuse a classmate of bad behavior in front of the whole class. I remember in middle school being the lone kid in class standing up for the kid everyone was picking on. I remember at 16, standing up against a crowd of people that were threatening to beat up someone at school I barely knew. As an adult, I’ve lost my temper more times than I care to admit when facing down an authority figure or a “leader” (I use that word loosely) and spoken boldly in defense of an ideal or brazenly called them out on their immoral, unethical, or selfish behavior. And every time, the feeling I get is the same – face burning, jaw clenching, stomach sick, fists balled. And then the words burst out of my mouth and I find myself in another position that, to be honest, I usually would rather not be in. Sometimes I’m able to keep myself calm enough that my emotions don’t get the best of me. Sometimes I look like an emotional mess. Sometimes – though rarely – it works. People own their behavior and change. But usually I end up hearing one of the phrases I listed above. And I have tried really hard to care less, to let these situations make me jaded and hopeless, to stop fighting so hard. But, really, it just fuels the fire.

I’m not saying any of this in praise of myself. I know very well that this is a gift/burden straight from God. It’s his voice and his passion for justice that pours out in those moments. Sometimes I get in the way (Moses striking the rock or Jonah confronting Ninevah) and sometimes I can get out of the way (Jesus in the Temple or Nathan confronting David). I know that because there’s no other explanation for a child of 6 years old to have a developed enough awareness of power structures, authority violations, and justice ideals to be able to appreciate the violation of power that comes with an adult teacher standing over a small child and yelling

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