20 Lessons For Spiritual Resistance

Jewish tradition gives us one week for Shivah – one week to cover our mirrors and weep and wail and stay close to home, to sit low to the ground, to humble ourselves and empty ourselves. And then, at the end of the week of Shivah, we rise up to life: We take a walk around the block, we re-enter the world, we begin to live our lives in this new reality.

We must mourn and we must grieve all that is lost and we must reemerge into life with all the pain and all the hope and all the agony and all the resilience need to transform the world into one worthy of our children and grandchildren: Overflowing with love and justice and human dignity.

Spiritual Resistance Lessons

  1. In the words of Yossi Klein HaLevi, “When someone says they want to kill you, BELIEVE THEM.”
  2. “NO” is a powerful word of faith. When Moses went to Pharaoh, he began with NO! We will NOT be slaves anymore. Our word of faith is NO.
  3. Mary Fisher teaches, “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the strength to act wisely when most we are afraid.”
  4. Everyone needs Shabbat–a Sabbath day to rest, renew, and recommit to our deepest values of compassion, decency, love, and justice. You won’t be an effective moral leader without a Shabbat practice.
  5. Facing tyranny will demand we access courage in the deepest parts of our souls, in places we didn’t know we had it. We are courageous and fabulous and beautiful and powerful. We. Will. Win.
  6. This work is too big to do alone. Find people to weep with and work with and rage with and plan with and laugh with. The only way from here to there is by joining hands and marching, together.
  7. This work is MESSY! Walking through the muck on the journey to the Promised Land means mud on our boots and sweat on our backs and lifting objects that are too damn heavy and being in the cold and the sun and the wind and the rain. Get a good pair of shoes, a warm hat, and a bottle of water. The journey requires preparation.
  8. It isn’t about you. Humility is necessary to move forward. When we screw up, apologize. When we achieve a small victory, celebrate. Then keep going.
  9. Keep your sense of humor. Don’t take yourself so seriously you forget to laugh. Yes – this work matters. In some cases, it is life and death. And, we remember to laugh at life’s absurdities.
  10. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Compromise is not a dirty word. We do all the good we can each opportunity we have and then we keep going!
  11. The journey is long. It requires persistence – the ability to keep going in the face of improbable odds. We don’t give up. We keep going!
  12. Moses didn’t want the job of leading the Israelite people to freedom. He came up with multiple excuses (I’m just a shepherd, I can’t do public speaking) to avoid taking the gig. You might feel like Moses – who are you really to do this work of moral leadership? Actually, who are you NOT do this work? Sometimes, we are called to do this holy work because others see us as capable – even if we don’t see it in ourselves. Your community needs you to rise up and be part of the solution. Be like Moses and lead.
  13. When you are tired and weary, sing. When you feel despair, sing. When you aren’t sure the direction to freedom and equality, sing. Lift your voice in agony and hope and faith and pain and never, ever stop singing.
  14. Sometimes, we who believe in freedom and equality fall into the trap of fighting with each other and we make the perfect the enemy of the good. Stop it! Wear your safety pin. Work for justice. Rally. Call your member of Congress. There are many ways to achieve justice. Be extra kind to the folks working hard, even when you disagree with a particular tactic. Keep your eyes on the prize.
  15. It is never, ever too early to get involved, to speak up, to talk to the shop keeper and the bank teller and the receptionist and the security guard about what matters most. Talk. To everyone. About immigration and climate justice and abortion rights and Muslims and love and faith and anti-Semitism and decency and compassion and the world we hunger to build.
  16. Develop a regular forgiveness practice. People are going to do stuff that is gonna make you mad! Love them anyway. Forgive them. They won’t show up on time, they’ll mess stuff up, they’ll only open their mouths to change feet. Practice forgiveness. If not for them, then for you. It will help you do the work that needs to get done and love the people you’re doing it with – even when they drive you bananas.
  17. God gave us two ears and one mouth~use them proportionately. White people, that means making space for people of color to lead. Men, that means making space for women to lead. Straight people, that means making space for GLBTQ people to lead. And so it goes.
  18. We don’t have all the answers. Talking together, working together, dreaming together, we might find them. It is ok to show up and say, “I don’t know what to do but I want to be here.” Keep your mind and your heart open to learning and growing.
  19. We aren’t called to be perfect. We are called to be human. We all have wounds, flaws, and abundant imperfections. Nu? No one needs you to be perfect. We need you to show up with all your heart and all your compassion and all your humanity.
  20. We are resisting normalizing hatred and bigotry, belittling people who are different because we believe that humanity was created in the Divine Image. We are morally implicated in each other’s successes and failures. So we never, ever give up on humanity and we resolutely reject a politics of apathy, cynicism, and despair.