Owning Our Stories

Years ago, after serious straight line winds tore through my Midwestern neighborhood, what I remember most was not the destruction, which was truly shocking, but the eery quiet. Trees uprooted, holes ripped in houses, and yet apart from the gentle dropping of rain and far off thunder, it was so very still.

I did not cast my vote for Democrat or Republican, but I empathize with those that arose in fear and dread and silence as the dust settled around them this morning. I can’t help but wonder at what point we draw the line. Culture vs. individual, do we blame both? The societal machine that continues to spew out cults of personality and celebrate mere humans as glittering demigods. We worship progress and chase happiness, always looking out, never seeing in.

Blame crosses aisles. Hateful, vitriolic abuse knows no party. Division knows no bounds, because neither does evil. What the devil can divide, he can destroy. And on this day when we chose “the lesser of two evils,” evil was still chosen. For we are given over to the desires of our sinful hearts as we chase power and prosperity, dangled just out of reach by the prince of the air.

It was not lost on me that on the day a man who employs abusive, hateful language was elected to the highest office of our country, privately I faced yet another conflict with the individual who displays her own divisive, abusive tactics to maintain control. And I wondered, who else. For we as a society seem to protect abusers as they yell the loudest and beat their fists, all while their victims suffer in silence.

And so I want to reach out to my brothers and sisters who woke this morning with the familiar feeling of panic and dread. Maybe you couldn’t sleep or couldn’t eat or couldn’t even enjoy your coffee, because anxiety made your heart race and your hands shake. You didn’t really have the words to tell your children, looking into their little faces, because after all who really knows whether it will be okay.

No matter how your vote was cast, we all play our roles in this collective reality. And as human beings charged with loving and caring for one another and creation, can we agree not to downplay the very real fear many people woke with this morning? I don’t know about you, but I understand this fear, the overwhelming uncertainty cowering in the wake of a bully who delights in singling you out.

In the church and in our politics and in our homes, it is time to strip these abusers of their power. And it starts within. We must reclaim ownership of our own stories. Abusive people have no problem staking claim over your life. Your body, your motives, your thoughts, your intentions stolen from you. But you, dear one, “You own everything that happened to you,” says Anne Lamott, “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

We must rise up together to not just call out any horrendous, unacceptable language and behavior for what it is – abuse – but with the courage to actually listen to the victimized and marginalized, seeking understanding. Even if we don’t feel any semblance of responsibility for the disorder, can we agree to help anyway, to care and to clean and to build?  After all, we each operate within our own realities. This truth applies to victim and abuser alike. But, as the author of my own story, I must prudently exercise the privilege of casting the leading roles.

And so, as the sun rises and sets on another day, let us dwell in the simple reality of our individual existences. Mother Theresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” And may we love thy neighbor and ourselves just as well.