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Courageous Love: Relationships and Movements

Welcome to Thirty Days of Love 2017. Over the next four weeks, we will be sharing a weekly message alongside a companion worksheet and short video. We hope you find these resources and reflections of use to the work you do from your congregation to your community and beyond.

Click here for the downloadable companion worksheet on relationships and movements. Once you’ve done that, consider checking out a video from our Organizing on the Side of Love online course. Click here to watch Caitlin’s module on community organizing and movement building you may find of use in your work. Lastly, check out the Thirty Days of Love 2017: All Ages Activity Calendar by Rev. Marisol Caballero. Next week we’ll be back with our second message on covenants and movements. Stay tuned!

Week one is dedicated to exploring relationships - those we have with ourselves, between people and between groups and organizations. I understand these bonds as the primary building blocks that create and sustain movements. Groups, campaigns and movements often fall apart because we do not know how to be in relationship with each other. The work of social transformation requires not only a rigor of politic but also a rigor of discernment – recognizing the real human needs we each have to be our best selves. Our relationships require many things from each of us - rooted in self reflection as a necessary first step to building authentic, long-term relationships. One of the attributes this moment is calling so many of us into is a deeper and wider understanding of courage.

All the courage that organizing has given me comes from seeing and learning courage in action, witnessing courage from others. My own courage has not appeared because I willed it into existence, or because of big speeches I made, or because I told myself I should be brave. The courage that I have now (which fails me sometimes still in moments of doubt) comes from organizing with Black, Latinx and LGBTQ people in red states. It comes from being in deep relationship, and seeing my political fate as tied to people other than myself. That is the courage I recognize when I look at Standing Rock. It is not a courage that came from data or facts. It was not the courage of the ‘late adopters’: those who jump on the bandwagons of campaigns or movements when they seem like a safe bet. It is the courage that leads you to make peace with what side you are on — regardless of outcome.

It is this kind of courage - rooted in relationship, informed by our common targets and threats and bolstered by the communities - that we need today. In the beginning of Trump’s regime, the seductions of denial and cowardice are powerful for those of us with many privileges. Many of us have never been persecuted because of our political beliefs, our religion, our race, our sexual orientation, or our political work. We feel the risk of ‘standing out’ and we are filled with unfamiliar feelings. We are scared. We are ashamed to say we are scared, especially when we know we are not the most at risk. We want someone else to blame. Our muscle for overcoming fear is not strong, because we have not had to use it as much as others in our society. Our egos have a hard time reconciling our reactions with the idea of cowardice. We tell ourselves: “I am not a coward. I am just being reasonable!” 

It seems harsh to use that word for our behavior. If others were to refer to us that way, we would be defensive. But, what if we look at the word referencing a phenomenon that affects institutions and groups of people? What if we made it less individualistic? What if we also framed ‘courage’ less around individual actions and more around groups? How do we think of collective courage? What does it mean to have a deeper understanding of our own relationships - how we enter relationships and what we bring to them? How are we collectively providing an offering and when are we entering with requests, comments and suggestions?

Cowardice organically appears when people are comfortable and there is an absence of courage around us. Social isolation feeds it. Because it is a sentiment that travels among groups of people (like courage) it becomes easy to accept if we did not express cowardice first, but are just ‘going along with it’. Because courage comes from action and is often contagious, it is not surprising that in its absence we can comfort each other into cowardice. We tell each other: “But, I have a right to be scared! My concerns are real!” Of course they are. There are real things to be afraid of, and not all of us have to take all actions at all times. But, fear can also encourage us to overstate the risk, or trick us into feeling that we are alone in the risk. The reality is that the more of us who are willing to not comply with Trump’s regime, the safer we individually are.

That safety can grow inside of strong relationships. But, we have to grow to be able to create relationships that can hold this particular coming storm. Building and renewing our relationships starts with our own self-reflection. We can each ask ourselves how we can bring more generosity, openness, courage, and listening to our relationship building. We can each interrogate what we can do to strengthen our relationships in our neighborhoods, congregations, and towns in order to make our places safer (and more non-compliant) with the coming regime. 

May we be bold together.

With love and solidarity,

Caitlin Breedlove

Campaign Director, Standing on the Side of Love