Thoughts on giving up: In an era of darkness we must keep shining our light
Yesterday I decided I was through fighting. I was finished pushing back and speaking up and showing up and going on.
I concluded that it was all too exhausting and too painful to daily engage such hatred and to attend to so many wounds and to witness so much inhumanity — and I was done. I was officially retiring from giving a damn. You might be there, too.
Maybe today you’ve been pushed to the precipice of your what you believe you can withstand, and walking any further feels like an act of self-violence. I’m not going to tell you to keep going, but I’m hoping you will.
It’s easy to forget just what’s happening here, the bigger story we’re part of in this precisely painful seconds, the road already walked by someone else.
This isn’t simply about right now, it’s about what has been, it’s about what is coming. It’s not just about you and me, it’s about who has lived here, and who is on the way. We have had ancestors in such difficult endeavors to be human.
Long before you and I showed up, there were other people here — people whose names and faces we’ll never know, whose lives were then part of the present. They faced similarly dire circumstances, they also endured great suffering, and they too surely found themselves at hopelessness and resignation.
But they didn’t stop.
They fortified themselves and braved the injury and the trauma and the losses and the bruises, and they walked straight into the fight — cost and collateral damage be damned. They lost sleep and grew weary and absorbed violence, and because they did — you and I arrived in a world that felt like home to us.
They surely did it for themselves and for their children, but they also did it for you and for me, and for our children. They didn’t know our names or faces, and yet they made sure that when we got here, there was something of beauty and goodness here waiting for us. They gave us a world that now feels worth saving.
I want you to think ahead, just 100 years or so.
100 years from now, you and I will be dead. 100 years from now, we will be gone. 100 years from now we will reside solely in fading photographs and in the memories of a handful of people who shared close proximity with us and still can recall what we were like.
And in another 100 years, when those photos are fully faded and when those few people who knew us leave this place, we will be all but forgotten. And while that could all feel quite hopeless, it shouldn’t. It should clarify our purpose. It should make us brave. We aren’t living here to be remembered – If we are we need to abandon such folly.
We’re living here to be stewards of goodness and love and justice and decency, so that those coming 100 years from now — those who names and faces we’ll never know — will find these things waiting for them.
This was our inheritance, and it is our singular legacy: the world we give to those just off in the distance. We owe a debt to the damn-givers who came before us, not to stop now.
So yes, admit the toll these days have taken on you. Inventory the wounds you’ve acquired, category the people you’ve lost, and notice how much you have spent of yourself. Reckon with the heaviness within you and the grief you’re carrying upon your shoulders and the rage that resides in the center of your chest. Lament every bit of what you’re seeing and don’t pretend it isn’t rightly horrifying.
But please don’t stop.
Yes, it’s about your son and my daughter — but it’s about other sons and daughters. 100 years from now, there will be people here; young couples and big families and single parents and solitary travelers. There will be teenage girls and sick children and elderly men and working mothers. There will be gay kids, deciding whether or not it is safe to speak their truest truth.
There will be young men of color, asking if their lives really matter. There will be women, wondering whether or not they will be believed. There will be exhausted refugees, imagining a life of safety and rest here. There will be human beings needing compassion and truth and peace and joy.
They all deserve the best of us in these moments. They deserve our refusal to stop fighting. For you and for me, for those 100 years before, and for those 100 years away — don’t give up now.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com
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.