It’s odd isn’t it? You almost expect that a boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend will break your heart. It still hurts…but it’s almost expected. What isn’t expected?
When an organization breaks your heart.
I’ve seen it happen perhaps a dozen times, and recently, I’ve seen a spike. It happened to me, too. Much like heartbreak from a loved one, it hurts because of how much you put into it and who you thought you knew.
You put time into an organization like you do any relationship. The poster-making, tabling, planning, meetings, recruiting, rallying, posting, and calls/texts take up a huge portion of your time. But it’s totally worth it. You’re recruiting people to ideas and beliefs that underpin a moral society. Of course people need to hear it and of course you’re thrilled to share it with every soul you encounter. With joy you do it. With joy even if it costs you friends, hours of debate, sleepless nights, awkward encounters, and scrambled stress in your day. You were born for this. Looking back, you wonder how you even did it all without going insane. But you wouldn’t trade it for the world because you learned so much, met so many friends, changed hearts and minds, and frankly, became more employable.
You believed in the organization like you believe in a friend. You would not have put the time and energy into the org if you didn’t. The ones along for the ride or attention quickly move on to something else. The odd-ball controversy-for-controversy’s sake folks have a short half-life. You were in it for the long haul. You weren’t a summer fling. This was a long-term relationship. You told all your friends about the miracles of the org until you were blue in the face. You slept weird places, harassed strangers, and used your own money to buy assortments of things. You asked others to give money to reach big goals.
But you forgot that organizations are made up of people. And people are human. *Surprise*
I say that with sarcasm, but truly, you forgot. I forgot. You were so focused on the mission that you forgot to look around. Once you did, you wished you hadn’t. You wish that you kept your blinders on, put your head down, and focused on all the good coming from the team’s efforts. The good is tremendous. But you see and hear things you can’t unsee or unhear. Your bubble has popped and the delusion is over. Some things aren’t okay. It’s not okay because it’s politics, it’s not okay because that’s the way this or that person is, it’s not okay because it’s not okay. Some things are just toxic for a team, some dangerous, some immoral, some illegal. It all happens. Whatever it is, you decide you can’t turn a blind eye, face deep seated internal conflict, go through a cycle of emotions, worry about your future and reputation, and hopefully eventually speak the truth. If you’re at this stage right now, wondering if you should say something and/or leave, I’m so sorry. This is, without a doubt, the hardest part of your journey. There are costs to speaking up. Do it tactfully. Raise your concerns, and if you can’t live with the terms, do leave. Yes, things will be said about you. Yes, stories will be made. Yes, it actually might be harder for you to get another role, job, or volunteer position. But you’re in this because you speak up against injustices aren’t you? And whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap that we usually do at the end of a failed relationship—don’t feel it was all for nothing. It wasn’t. That’s a devil’s lie in your brain, creeping around your heart and whispering to you when you’re most vulnerable. Maybe you deserved it? Also a lie. Maybe you weren’t good enough? Lie. But why didn’t they love you like you loved them? Ouch.
But this is our mistake, friends.
A movement isn’t a religion and org leaders aren’t the mother/father/brother/sister you never had. These aren’t saints and this isn’t doctrine. The feelings that come with being in a movement and following brilliant leaders still is not picking up your cross and following Christ. It isn’t and it can’t be. We conflated it. It could have been your calling or vocation. It still might be. But we needed to be more careful about the importance and place in our life we gave people, places, Facebook posts, hashtags, and things. That’s our bad. You trusted it all so much you would have never dreamed people and things would turn against you? The Word promises that it will. The truth is, the enemy seeks to weaken forces of Truth and Good. The people that make up organizations are no exception. Take this opportunity (yes, I called it an opportunity) to refocus where you set your hope. It can’t be in a movement, an organization, a job, or a person. It has to be in the promises God gives us. He holds the Truth, and He will forge a path for you to fulfill your passions, talents, and vocation in life. He will put people and words in your life that help heal you.
And then it happens. You experience an organization with healthy practices. You flinch at the first serious discussion with a new leader for lack of trust. The good-boyfriend-after-bad-boyfriend phenomenon occurs. To be dramatic and in-line with our metaphor, you love again. Your new leader isn’t what you thought they would be. You’re not hurting or blinding yourself. You’re living your passions and joining a movement, but you’re not idolizing it. You’re done with idolatry. You regret nothing. And while you’re pained to witness the injustices that still occur to your friends, you’re at peace.
Forgive yourself and work on forgiving the passionate, exciting, talented people who hurt you. They didn’t go into it looking to do anything hurtful. They’re there for the same reason you were and are. Remember how much you are forgiven. Simmer over it less. Pray for the mission. Be truthful. Allow yourself to be angry and sad but only for so long. Rejoice in the movement of the Lord, believe in the mission of saving Grace, put your time in loving God’s creatures, find Freedom in Christ, and find your identity in your Heavenly Father alone.
“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” Matthew 6:14-15
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17