The more you work for justice, the more you will be criticized.

The more you work for justice, the more you will be criticized. July 15, 2019

It is a painful truth, one that causes to examine your motivations and your commitment to the work:

The more you engage in works of compassion or the struggle for justice, the more you will receive criticism. Sometimes painfully unfair criticism.

It makes sense. The more noble your commitments and values, the farther you’ll fall short in comparison. The lower your aspirations, the less others expect from you.

The more you commit yourself to works of mercy, the more likely you will receive more anguished criticism than the person who is entirely inhospitable. The people who have been the most angry with me in my life were guests at the Mennonite Worker who felt like we weren’t doing enough for them.

The more you lean into a strong critique of oppression, the more like you will be to be in situations where comrades and fellow activists will challenge you on your stuff. Often, they’ll be speaking painful truths. Sometimes, they’ll be projecting their own struggles onto you. But it will be intense. Way more intense than if you were completely disconnected and disinterested in the struggle for justice.

During such moments, it is helpful to contemplate what motivates you. And to remember the closer you get to the sources of pain, the more you will get caught up in that pain.

But there is no other way to cultivate vulnerability and deep friendship without the risk of pain. And the path of liberation opens us up to all sorts of challenges. In a way, we’re all addicted to the stories the empire puts in us. And dislodging that while pursuing healing can be confusing and extremely difficult.

Don’t let feelings of defensiveness and self-doubt rob you of joy. Reflect on criticisms with wise friends. Truth tellers who love you. Be open to the possibility that you’re being invited to a moment of clarity and growth. Remember that inner healing is an important part of the work.

And if you feel like the criticisms are unfair or overly harsh. Gently set them aside, resist feelings of resentment, and keep moving forward.


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