Standing up for what we believe in

April 27, 2014

blog_stephanie_wagnerI am blessed with a pretty awesome book group.  There are twelve of us, a diverse group in age, life experiences, religious background, education, and, ironically, taste in books.

What is fascinating to me is we can bring all of that into the circle we sit in once a month, and just have real dialogue.  I get to view the world not just through the lens of a story, but through other women whose life experiences have shaped them just as mine have shaped me.

Every month, my world gets just a little wider.

Our last book choice was The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. If you haven’t heard about it, the story follows two early abolitionists, the Grimke sisters, and the slaves that are owned by their family.

About half way into our discussion, the question was raised, “What does it mean to be a reformer?”

I have been thinking about that ever since.

Through the lens of history, it is simple to look to the early reformers as untouchable heroes.  Those who faced penalty of death, imprisonment, ex-communication – all in the name of something unquestionably wrong – slavery, women’s right to vote, segregation, genocide.

There are the names that we all recognize, the ones that are recorded in the history books, the ones that feel untouchable, almost inhuman in their strength and bravery.

It is easy to define them as “reformers”.  But could there be more to it than that?  Is it possible for us all to be reformers?

Boiled down, reformers are simply agents of change.  Sometimes those are big public acts with lots of fanfare, and sometimes it is the moment when we act on that still small voice that says for the first -or the 100th -time that something is wrong.

There is always risk involved, and change is always uncomfortable.  Fortunately, for most of us, it will not be as monumental as death or imprisonment.

Personally, I don’t mind stirring the pot a little bit once in a while.  I am also cognizant that many of my choices are not without consequence, and I weigh those constantly.  There have been many times in the past year I have written a blog, only to hold back on publishing because I was wary of the repercussions.

I often feel guilty that I am not brave enough, or not fighting hard enough, or not using the public forum I have been gifted to make enough of a difference.

The fear of being socially ostracized, or publically shamed, keeps many of my opinions private.  That, in itself, feels like a prison at times too.

Today, I am taking up the challenge to be a reformer.  I am not sure yet what that will look like, but I know it will mean taking more risks.  It will mean not biting my tongue when I am faced with ignorance, close mindedness, and intolerance.  It means I will lean in to those who are much braver than I, and give them support where I can.

It also means I am probably going to have to get used to being a little uncomfortable once in a while.  It is likely my small discomfort is nowhere near the discomfort the oppressed are feeling, and I have broad enough shoulders to hold a bit of that burden for a while.

I invite you all to take up this challenge with me.  There is strength in numbers, and sometimes a kind word of support or sympathy is all it takes to power on other reformers.

Let’s start a movement where we all feel safe standing up for what we believe in, even when we don’t agree with each other.  Let’s show that respect and tolerance, alongside open-minded dialogue, can go a long way in impacting change in our world.