SPIRITUAL SOAP: Don't Yell, Don't Whisper, But Speak: Part II
Passing your integrity test.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
This is part 2 of a multi-part series on speaking honestly, openly, and thoughtfully when all three qualities are increasingly absent today. You can read part 1 here.
It’s a hot, tense, quiet feeling. It’s conflict between two inseparable sides. It’s a complex system whose parts have fallen out of sync. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know the moment when what you fear and what you value are perfectly opposed.
It doesn’t matter where you stood when it unfolded, I don’t know a single person who enjoys remembering the climate of 2020. You might feel compelled to remember or motivated to forget, but 2020 put every person through tests of integrity.
I used to be the person I write about now. I didn’t know what I believed or what it felt like to know what I believed; I only knew what I feared. I feared judgment and how an opinion entered you into the torture lottery to be the next target of a faceless mob. There was no “cancel culture” to blame and reject—there was only an invisible, ever-lurking threat with the compassion of a predator’s eyes, blind to your humanity and suffering.
Most of my life, I lived in the fog of fear; I didn’t say what I thought was true, I said what I thought others thought was true.
There are two solid ways to convert others to your ideas: have good ideas and articulate them well or make choosing otherwise the more painful option.
Avoiding pain is the strongest value many people hold. I wasn’t motivated by my curiosity or my values, but by a need to appease the group that felt most threatening.
Our culture might feel embattled and chaotic now, but remember 2020 for a moment. The tides are dangerous, but they are still turning. Today, it’s easier to denounce ideas that questioning once made you fair game for unlimited abuse. Today, you can openly criticize an organization like Black Lives Matter for exploiting rage and tragedy for a few people’s financial gain. Today, it’s obvious how absurd it is to dig up old teenage-brain tweets and demand a grown adult be punished for them. We’re undoing the insanity because some people didn’t fail their integrity test.
Bad ideas are like a disease; they don’t resolve without being diagnosed and countered. The damage we’ve seen our culture sustain—divisiveness, self-censorship, institutional rot—are wounds left by bad ideas gone untreated too long.
I understand this now because I’ve learned to measure my choices by more than just what pain they risk me.