I am absolutely convinced of this truth: I am the most brilliant person I know . . . about thirty minutes after I need to be. Maybe you know that feeling. It seems that every time that I get into a tough conversation, I seize up in the moment, but will come up with “what I should have said” about thirty minutes too late.
I remember a conversation not too long ago with a person who holds some significant power in the state of Georgia. I was part of a group of people and had only just met this individual. In the course of conversation, a comment was made that betrayed blatant prejudice towards another group in our community.
I wish that I could say that I stopped the speaker and said something like, “I’m sorry. Did I hear you correctly?” or “Do you really feel that is a fair representation of the group to which you are referring?”
Sadly, I didn’t. Instead, I excused myself from the conversation and chose not to continue, in order to avoid conflict. That decision has haunted me ever since.
In Psalm 82, we read this command, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Some changes in our world can be dictated from the top down. A law is made or a decree is uttered and everyone else falls in line. In some businesses, policies can be put in place that will at least affect outward behavior. More often than not, however, true change comes from the ground up – from the inside out.
The truth of the matter is that few of us have the power or influence to formulate “top down” actions with wide-ranging effects. We all have the power to stand up for others, though.
Maybe it comes in the little jokes made in the break room, the passing shots offered when the guys are out for dinner, or the way we treat the repair guy doing construction on our house. Maybe it comes in conversations around the family dinner table as we let our guards down and show our true selves. These little things add up over time to create a culture that is toxic to human flourishing and the Gospel message.
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about “virtue signaling” – the hollow act of expressing an opinion just to make a person look good without really doing anything to affect change. I am not talking about trying to shame others into agreeing with any particular position or movement.
What I am talking about is change at the individual, grass roots, level. Each one of us can choose to think through our response ahead of time. We can ask ourselves: How will I lovingly and peacefully advocate for others in my day-to-day life? How can I defend the poor and oppressed? How can I root out the evil in my heart and use my voice for good?
Real change, after all, begins one decision at a time.