It was a moment that ruined me forever. I was sitting on a bus with fellow college students the first time my heart was moved to commit to seeking racial justice. Little did I know how much obeying this conviction would cost me.
Since then I’ve worked in foster care and homeless shelters, churches, and college campuses. It’s a cause and a calling that follows me into every moment of my life. But I want to confess something: Doing this work is hard. Really hard. In fact, fighting for justice is the worst. It’s not sexy or romantic; it’s often quite gut-wrenching. So in an effort to be honest about this work, I decided to make a list of why you shouldn’t fight for justice.
1.It will exhaust you. Seeking justice in the world is a significant emotional investment. When we follow this call, we’re deeply moved by the ways injustice affects real people, and we work extraordinarily hard to do what we can to make sure no one else has to face the same injustice again. This often requires working behind the scenes—unacknowledged, underappreciated, and overlooked. This kind of work is often done with little to no pay. The nice thing about a traditional 9 to 5 job is the clear understanding of when to stop and go home, but the world of justice is often so connected to who we are becoming that—in order to survive—we’ve got to intentionally rest so we can separate our selves from our causes.
2. You’ll never feel like you’re doing enough. Societal issues are intricate, multilayered, and far-reaching. When God calls us to make a difference, even if we manage to focus on just one issue we can still feel like we’re falling down a rabbit hole of complexities. With those complexities come more opportunities to act, to serve, to fight. I’m personally committed to writing and speaking about racial justice, but I often feel like I’m just not doing enough. There’s a running list on my computer of all the other ways I should be participating in the work of justice: I should volunteer, I should organize, I should support existing organizations, and I should give money. No matter how much I do, I always feel like I should be doing so much more. Fighting for justice means that you’re always exhausting yourself but are still left feeling like it’s not enough. That’s a hard way to live.
3. You’ll never be able to unlearn what you’ve learned. Ignorance is bliss—and the more we learn, the more our lives and relationships are disrupted. When our eyes are opened to the injustices in the world, our lives begin to center on understanding how certain injustices have developed over time and how they are currently maintained. We watch special news reports and gather articles. Our Netflix accounts start suggesting programming that fit our new found passion. (Netflix once suggested for me “critically-acclaimed fight-the-system movies,” which still makes me laugh.) We start having risky conversations with the people we love the most—our friends and family, our congregation and pastor, and our coworkers and neighbors. We know they might not understand, but we are compelled by what we have learned. And—sadly—we’re often rejected, shouted down, and silenced. The Facebook friends we lose are nothing compared to the best friends who don’t call anymore and the former mentors who are now distant from us. Some of us have even been asked to leave our church or our small group. The risk is not to be underestimated.