...it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again
after they say no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
—Marge Piercy, from The Low Road
Resistance defined: The refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument. From the Latin verb resistere, “to hold back.”
Yes, this month’s theme is among the most complex of them all. But it also may be the most simple.
The complexity is clear:
Sometimes being a people of resistance involves struggle and requires us to disobey; other times it asks us to just be ourselves and not hide who we really are. Sometimes it involves defeating the enemy; other times it is a matter of noticing that treating them as the enemy defeats us all. Sometimes being a person of resistance is about fighting all the way to the top; other times it’s about picking yourself up off the floor and taking one tiny step. Sometimes it depends on the will to never let them win; other times it hinges on the wisdom to follow the path of least resistance.
It certainly takes the form of speaking our truth. But more often than not, it’s about the harder task of speaking the truth in love.
We all know being a people of resistance involves refusing to comply and demanding change, which requires great courage. But sometimes the most courageous thing is to stop resisting and accepting that things just aren’t going to work out the way we hoped.
Bottom line: being a people of resistance is tricky business and takes multiple forms.
But beyond this complexity lies the simplicity of Marge Piercy’s words. In all cases, she reminds us, being a people of resistance starts when we say we.
January puts this in stark relief. Think about all those New Year’s resolutions that try to overcome our personal inertia? Who of us ever accomplishes that without help? Without someone holding us accountable or cheering us on?
Martin Luther King Jr Day makes it just as clear. Although we celebrate him as a great leader, he himself preached that change requires a movement. Simply put, none of us resist alone.
Or maybe it’s better to say that none of us have to resist alone. We all know what it is like to want to resist. Think of all those voices we hear in our heads and feel in our hearts: I’m not going to take it anymore. I will not go along. I will not submit. I refuse to conform. I will no longer be numb. I will not give up. I will not forget. I will not go to sleep. I will ignore it no longer. I will not turn a blind eye. And yet, we also know that those voices are hard to hear and hold on to by ourselves. The blessing, of course, is that we don’t have to hold on alone.
It is one thing to be told, “Resist!” It is quite another to be told, “Resist together!” But often what we need most is simply to be reminded that we don’t have to resist alone.
May this be the gift we give each other this month. Let’s help each other remember to start by saying we! It may be as simple as that.
Spiritual Exercise: Get Going…But Not On Your Own
This is the month of New Year’s resolutions. This year, don’t just pick a resolution; pick a partner! Honoring the spiritual practice of accountability, tell a trusted friend about your resolution and then ask them to help hold you to it. Choose whatever accountability strategy that works best for both of you. Maybe ask them to text you once a day to remind or encourage you. Instead of running alone, ask them to run with you for the month. Maybe your resolution is to get back to writing. If so, ask them to be your editor.
And don’t just ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to help you reflect on the experience itself. Sit down for at least one conversation before your small group meeting to talk with your
“resolution partner” about how it felt to be held accountable and to hold one accountable. What did it teach you—and them—about the power of resisting together?
Some Spiritual Practice Questions on Resistance
As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety. Instead, simply pick the one question that “hooks” you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal of these questions is not to help you analyze what resistance means, but to figure out what being a person of resistance means for you today. So, which question is calling to you?
Related Quotes from the Library Committee
Some of us remember,
And we can hear her yet,
The first black woman singer
Invited to the Met.
(From Keep on Singing: A Ballad of Marian Anderson by Myra Cohn Livingston.)