Injustice, Stress and Me: A Pastoral Response
When faced with injustice, many of us become frozen, not knowing what to do. This describes my initial reaction. I can become anxious and overwhelmed and stressed out. From a pastoral standpoint, I feel there are two things going on here:
- My feeling stressed out and unable to cope and
- The desire to know how best I can make some kind of difference with regard to an injustice, and feeling powerless.
We will always encounter injustice in our worlds. The injustices we encounter may take many forms: from how the COVID virus has taken away some of my own freedoms, or my job, or someone I care about; to the enculturated racial injustice of generations of prejudice behavior and systems.
As far as my own stress response, I find that breathing helps me stop spiraling out of control. Just breathe in to the count of 5, then out to the count of 5. I do this one time or as many as I need to derail the negative thinking. I also find that a mindfulness of what is happening in this present moment – what is right before my eyes, what are my current feelings, what am I doing right now - seems to center me in the present, keeping the worries and fears of the past or future at bay. I learned a wonderful mindful mantra that has helped from this website: https://mrsmindfulness.com/how-to-use-mindfulness-in-times-of-crisis-challenge/. “This too” is my abbreviation for saying, “I accept the unfolding of this present moment in whatever form it takes, and this too is allowed and accept.” Combined with a centering prayer of “Jesus, I offer this moment to you and trust that you will make everything turn out just as it is meant to be.” There is a quiet power and peace that follows.
As for desiring to make a difference, one source I read (https://www.wikihow.com/Stand-up-to-Injustice) reminded me of some practical ways I can respond when faced with injustice. I liked the simplicity, and maybe you will too.
- Research the Injustice: with an open mind, try to understand all aspects or sides of the issue without allowing my own preconceived ideas or prejudices get in the way. Not letting the media or news or people’s opinions or hearsay be the basis for my own stand allows me to focus my efforts more effectively by finding out who / what is responsible for the injustice and who has the power to change it.
- Study the issue from all sides: from a variety of different sources, to get at the facts, which might be different from what I thought they would be.
- Learn about possible alternative or actions to correct injustices: what might other people be doing or suggesting, what things are working in other places. This type of vision could make my own stance more powerful and credible, as well as help me find ways to make a difference in my own life.
- Take a stand:
- Set an example in my own life – for instance, looking at where I might have hidden racial stereotypes that influence my own behavior, or how could I be kinder and more fair to folks of other races?
- Speak out when I see an injustice being done to someone, calling it out as wrong, and perhaps trying to get the person out of the unjust situation.
- Talk to people I know to share what I am learning and raise awareness of an injustice, which may motivate others to take stands of their own.
- Contact people with the power to stop the injustice, or the Media, so they can also let people know of the injustice.
- VOTE against injustice that is economically or political systemic, or VOTE with my dollars by boycotting or refusing to buy from companies suspected of unjust practices, and finding alternative products from companies with practices that are more just.
I hope that some of these ideas might help you to feel more centered, grounded, and empowered in the face of injustice and suffering – yours or others. This article said it best: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/our-simple-act-means-the-world/
It is through our acts of kindness, our compassion, our love of people that makes a difference. How we want to be treated is how we should be treating others. This is the most valuable of contributions. Through simple and small acts of kindness, thoughtful statements, a smile on our face is how we share the love in our hearts.