We've seen dozens of Pinterest graphics reminding us to be brave, to be strong, to be courageous. And last week, those encouraging words resonated with me deeply as I typed this phrase in an email to a friend in response to a difficult conversation I needed to initiate: "I don't worry about whether or not she agrees; I just worry about making her uncomfortable."
It seems silly, of course. Because the truth of the matter is that if we're living our truest stories, things are going to get uncomfortable. We are going to offend someone. We're going to say the wrong thing at the right time, or the right thing to the wrong person, or the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing at the wrong time. Because we're all - pardon this fall-infused football metaphor - playing from different parts of the field.
But here's what I see. I see hundreds of people - thousands, even - silencing themselves for fear of making others uncomfortable. For fear of offending the defensive, or feeling wrong, or being proven wrong, or being ushered onto the "wrong" team. For fear of being the recipient of a giant foam finger, pointing us to the side of a field where we think we don't want to belong.
So we do one of three things:
1. We sit on the sidelines. We don't engage. We don't form an opinion. We quiet ourselves while the "braver" or "smarter" (read: louder) stake their claims and rally the crowds. And we look left and right, whispering about the players in the mud beneath us - did you see what #47 did to #39, and can you even imagine what #5 must be thinking? We cheer. We jest. We gossip. We completely relinquish the power of participation.
2. Or, we join the defense. We don't engage either, but we think we're engaging, because hey, at least we're on the field. We protect our thoughts with helmets of statistics and kneepads of experience and we keep our head down, primed for tackling. Out of the corner of our eyes we watch the offensive, plan our play and then lock our knees - ready to withstand the blow we're sure will come. We close our hearts and prepare for the clashing of armor, crushing of souls.
3. Or, we join the offense. We proceed thoughtfully, with great care and planning. We look up at the lights and the crowd and the field and assess the game, ultimately deciding too much is at stake to stand still. We press forward prayerfully toward discomfort, silencing all noise but the beating of the heart God has given us. And then, we speak.
We speak with courage, hoping that our words will be well-received in their fullest flavor, rather than the watered down version we've grown accustomed to. And we listen. We listen for truth, with thought and intent, and - mostly - with love.
It doesn't mean the game will be smooth. It doesn't mean there won't be skinned knees or stained jerseys or - perhaps worst of all - broken hearts. But it means we'll have approached one another from separate sides of the field, meeting in the middle for a tough call. It means that - for the briefest of moments - we spoke with courage and listened for truth.
Upon reading my email last week, my wise friend sent me this in response: "Erin. If you're keeping the peace, you cannot make the peace."
So here's to making peace, speaking with bravery and listening with unwavering courage.
Here's to the hard.