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Inactivism: the privilege to not care about injustice

A letter to anyone with a friend who has been angry since last year’s election, and wonders what can be done to help.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your note to let me know you’re worried about me, that you’re concerned about my health — that you’re not sure that I realize I’m coming across as really angry lately.

Your assessment is correct. I am angry. I’m sorry.

I can imagine I’m not all that fun to be around right now, and that from time to time my words come across as combative or abrasive. I’m probably more than a bit of a downer lately and I apologize.

You’re going to have to bear with me, as I haven’t been sleeping well for about a year or so. Admittedly I’m not at my best these days, so you’ll need to forgive me. I’m chronically overtired. I’m exhausted from having to care about people that you’re supposed to care about too.

I’m worn out from keeping up on legislation and watching hearings and staying on top of details and remembering deadlines and imploring action — while you go about your day as if such things are an annoyance, is if they are a disruption of your plan, as if the expiration date for my outrage has long come and gone.

I am absolutely burnt out from trying to make my voice loud enough to counteract not only the bad people’s incredible volume—but your deafening silence. Both of these things are doing similar damage right now, sadly.

Believe me, I understand that my activism is a problem for you. Please know that your inactivism is similarly problematic for me. It’s part of the reason I am as angry as I am; because I’m not only having to fight against those who seem furiously bent on hurting people — I’m having to fight against those who don’t seem care enough that they are doing so, to say anything.

Look, I get it, I really do. It’s difficult to see so much bad news, to fully face the relentless flood of terrible, to try and wrap your brain around seemingly boundless cruelty around you. It’s tiresome to spend so much time with a closed fist. I know it’s even a pain in the rear end to endure the continual rantings of people like me on your news feed and in your timeline and across the dinner table and in the break room.

I’m sick of the fight too. I’m sick of the sound of my own voice. I’d rather not be doing this either. I’d much rather prefer to just enjoy life, to forget about it all, to only post pictures of puppies and my kids, and to simply ignore all that “political garbage.”

But that is what privilege looks like; to even believe I have such an option, to have the great luxury of living without urgency because I can seemingly shield myself from it all.

That is what the bad people are counting on. They’re counting on good people who are too tired, too apathetic, too selfish, or to oblivious to sustain their outrage. I am not going to give that gift to them.

As long as they’re fully invested in putting people through hell, I’m going to be as invested in pushing back against it. I think the people I love are worth it. I think you and the people you love are worth it. I think people I’ll never meet are worth it.

And that’s the rub here: love will often look a lot like rage, as it fiercely fights on behalf of those who are being attacked.

So yes, angry is not all that I am, but I am rightly angry. And it would be really helpful if we could carry the load of outrage right now. That would actually be a source of rest and joy and breath.

Friend, if you really want me to be less angry, you might try being a little more angry.

I am angry, friend. I wish you were angry too.

John Pavlovitz

Originally published on johnpavlovitz.com as Yes, I Know I’m Angry. I Wish You Were.

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.

About The Author

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus, both online in this global community.

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