Recently, I’ve had a few friends step into advocacy. I’ve also enjoyed more time with those who have spent their lives committed to advocacy. I admire all of them, from the newly inspired to the longtime devotee. Each of you advocate on behalf of others, representing your own unique perspectives and passions: fair wages, better public education, access to better foods, breast cancer research, poverty reduction, gay rights, fair wages, religious freedom, gender equality in the church and in the workplace, and so many more. The world is better because of you but I know it’s not an easy path. I hope to offer you some encouragement with this post.
The Dance of the Advocate
It’s that moment you doubt everything about yourself. You’ve experienced so many moments of vulnerability and you feel too exposed to be comfortable again. You want to crawl under a rock or move far away. This time this mountain just seems too big.
The wounds seem too deep this time. There are far too many. And this time they came from so many places you trusted. You thought you were safe. You are embarrassed that it took you so long to realize you weren’t.
You didn’t expect those closest would turn on you. You didn’t expect their words to be so cruel. They pierced you in an unexpected way. You fear these wounds won’t ever heal.
Then in your moment of darkness, just enough light peaks through. It allows you to stop focusing on the pain for a moment and shines on the parts of you that cannot be ignored. After those countless sleepless nights, you finally own up to who you are. There is no changing who you were meant to be.
You acknowledge your errors, whether it is the poor choice in tone or the stupid decision that undermined your message. You wish you could take it back; just a simple do over would ease the regret. But you accept it as part of your journey. Mistakes will shape you. It’s so easy for others to only see your mistakes and judge you by them. It’s painful. But you know that mistakes are necessary and only those who stand still avoid them.
You realize they will never know how badly they hurt you; they may not care. You accept that you can’t make them see. That’s not your fight. You aren’t who you are for them. Once again, you decide to live up to your own expectations and you refuse to foolishly chase theirs anymore.
So you pick yourself from off the ground. You brush off your knees. You stand up as straight as your beaten back will allow.
And you remind yourself they want silence because some of your words make them uncomfortable.
But you know that discomfort makes us better. Oh sure, embracing discomfort hurts like hell. You feel it every time you speak up when everyone else remains silent. However, the conviction that change will not come without discomfort always pushes you into that pain.
Some will fight it.They will hurt you to silence you. They will fill your world with angry words. They will attack your character.
But you will not be silent. Who you are will not allow it.
Because the advocate must speak.
You speak on behalf of the downtrodden, the broken. You speak on behalf of the rejected and disowned. You speak out for the marginalized, for those whose voices get lost in the majority.
You speak because you were one of them. Or you speak because you used to hurt them. Or maybe you speak because you love one of them. Whatever the reason that inspires your voice, it gives purpose to your passion and strength to your conviction. Today, you hold that reason a bit tighter.
You remind yourself that you don’t speak for the selfishly opinionated. You don’t speak for those holding tight to their privilege or those who believe everyone else should adapt to them. You don’t speak for those who reject progress, tolerance, or acceptance. You don’t speak for those who reject empathy. You hope your words might reach them, but you don’t speak for them.
Oh but when your words reach or impact just one…you feel an overwhelming peace for a moment. You tangibly feel the purpose of your cause. But soon after the turmoil will return, and you will need to speak again.
Because there is no greater calling than the belief you should sacrifice your comfort to advocate for another. There is no more noble or exhausting of a cause.
You’ve learned that your skin isn’t as thick as you hoped. You bleed. A lot. You scar. And those scars will serve as reminders of your pain, your mistakes, and your commitment.
And you will speak. Because the advocate must speak. Even when you make mistakes. Even when you fail. You will still speak.
And just know, no matter the cause, no matter the message, if you advocate on behalf of another…
I’m here listening.
Because we need you. I need you.
So please speak up a bit louder.