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Angry at the Right Time

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

I enjoy watching the TV show “What Would You Do?” where people are confronted with dilemmas that at first make my blood boil, then wonder who will do something about the injustice happening right in front of them? There is always a bit of relief when John Quiñones appears and makes it known that it is a staged situation with actors playing the villains. But it never fails to make me ask myself: what would I do? In real life would I let my anger, mixed with compassion, empower me to take action? or sit still, walk by, and mind my own business?

Since I wrote my last blog on being “Angry at the Wrong Time” I have noticed many articles, blogs, and stories about how right it is to be angry at injuries and injustice done to other people.

Phil Marcin, OPA, recently wrote: Remember Adam and Eve. When God confronted Adam about his sin, Adam said: “Eve made me do it.” And Eve said: “The Devil made me do it.” They both passed the buck. They accepted no accountability or responsibility. We often do the same–just talk or complain. We need to act. There are opportunities at home, at work, in our neighborhood, our city, our church, our nation.

Our country is suffering and divided. You and I need to work for greater civility; we need to work for compassion; we need to work for justice; we need to support adults and children seeking asylum from murder and violence and rape; we need to support families torn apart at our borders. What can we do? We can contact our representatives in Congress. We can vote. We can pray.

Last week a short paragraph in our Akron Beacon Journal alluded to an Instagram by actress Ann Hathaway, followed by an editorial by Dahleen Glanton quoted from the Chicago Tribune: “Until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Nia Wilson. My introduction to her came from an unexpected source: the Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. With a single Instagram post last week, Hathaway was able to push the story of this young African-American woman’s tragic death onto the radar of mainstream America more quickly and with greater impact than any one of Wilson’s own race could. That’s the astounding power of white privilege.”

Hathaway’s Instagram read: “The murder of Nia Wilson — may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here — is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence. She is not a hashtag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man,” Hathaway wrote underneath a photo of Wilson. “White people — including me, including you — must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS. White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white) selves- how ‘decent’ are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action? Peace and prayers and JUSTICE for Nia and the Wilson family.”  To read this editorial, click here.

In his recent article in the New York Times, “The Virtues of Catholic Anger,” Father James Martin SJ encourages Christians in the face of the Pennsylvania abuse scandal, to use their rage to combat evil within the Church. He writes: Anger is an important part of the life and ministry of Jesus. And so anger should be part of the Catholic life — with Jesus as a guide…Jesus’ anger is always a righteous anger, never on behalf of himself, but in reaction to how he sees others being treated.”

William Barclay wrote: “selfless anger can be one of the great moral dynamics of the world.” Anger fueled by compassion and active love can make heroes of ordinary people. There’s just one question: Will we let it?

Posted in Associate Blog

Channeling Anger into a Transforming Force

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I saw something recently that made my blood boil – a video surveillance tape showing a 71-year-old man being attacked by two teenagers.

The footage shows the septuagenarian walking along a street when the hoodlums approach and kick him, knocking him to the ground. When the man (wearing a Sikh turban) gets up, he is kicked again and knocked to the ground, where his turban falls off his head. Then one of the ruffians kicks him multiple times while he is on the ground and spits on him. The two then walk away.

What a hateful, repulsive, horrific, abominable, repugnant display of human behavior.

Although I felt justified in being incensed, I began to slip into the belief that anger is bad and that I needed to get it under control.

As I examined this inner conflict, I considered how our goal as spiritual beings is to live life in peace and love and I acknowledged the reality that there are situations that push our buttons.

The truth is that as spiritual beings, part of our journey includes experiencing the diverse complexities of human emotions, including anger. I concluded that anger is not always a bad thing. In fact, some anger can actually be healthy and constructive.

Yes, it is true that anger can hurt us, but it is also true that anger can unleash what it really feels like to care. Healthy anger can help us ascertain our truth and take a stand for what we value.

I concluded that my anger was a healthy response to injustice, an instinctive response to unfairness. My anger was a form of protest to the unfair treatment (or abuse) of the man –Sahib Singh Natt. It was the unfairness, or injustice, that provoked my anger, or indignation. Therefore, the anger was not the problem. The injustice that provoked the anger was the problem.

My anger revealed that I value the humane, fair, and just treatment of others.

When anger tells us that something is wrong, it also provides the energy to make it right. My anger moved me to prayer for Sahib Singh Natt and his family and his attackers and their families. And it fueled me with the determination to continue raising my voice against injustice and taking actions that will move the needle toward justice.

I encourage you to do the same.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Angry at the wrong time?

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

I’ve had a complete set of Barclay’s New Testament Commentaries since around 1985. Over the years I often used them as a reference when studying a NT passage or preparing a preaching. Though I appreciate the rich historical perspective it brings to each passage, as well as its very practical application of the bible to our lives, I have never read all the books from beginning to end. Recently I decided to do that, starting with Matthew, using it as part of my daily prayer.

On page 96, Barclay reflects on the Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Referring to Aristotle’s definition of meekness—“the happy medium between too much or too little anger”—he concludes with a first possible translation of this beatitude: “Blessed is the [person] who is always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time.”

It was the next sentence that stopped me short. “If we ask what the right time and the wrong time are, we may say as a general rule for life that it is never right to be angry for any insult or injury done to ourselves; that is something no Christian must ever resent; but that it is often right to be angry at injuries done to other people.”  Whoa! I had to think about that one! I was conflicted.

Whether someone is slighted, insulted unwittingly, treated unjustly, or outright oppressed, most people get angry when that happens to them, don’t they?  Isn’t it natural and healthy to feel hurt and angry when treated badly, and NOT to accept abuse?

On the one hand, doesn’t such anger empower a person to move away from an abusive situation or relationship? On the other hand, long held anger withholds forgiveness and fuels resentment—which poisons a relationship and one’s spiritual life, becoming an obstacle to eternal life in Christ.

Jesus, taught: “If you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your transgressions.” Jesus’ teaching about anger is a very important lesson in the first 25 verses of Matthew Chapter 5. We cannot be disciples of Jesus if we do not grapple with this teaching and apply it in our life and relationships as Jesus did.

Two persons, who learned and lived this lesson well and have much to teach me, stand out in my mind: Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King. Mandela after having been unjustly imprisoned for 27 years said: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”  “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

Dr. M. L. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence, modeled by Mahatma Gandhi in the nonviolent revolution in India, were based on and derived from Christ’s life and teaching:

  • Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people, not for cowards.
  • Build the Beloved Community everywhere you go.
  • Attack the forces of evil, not persons doing evil.
  • Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the just cause.
  • Avoid inner violence of the spirit as well as outward physical violence.
  • The universe is on the side of justice.

Since reading and praying about the first half of this Beatitude, I am on a spiritual cleansing diet: examining and ridding myself of any “anger at the wrong time,” any resentment toward anyone no matter how far back it goes. And I offer it as an ongoing practice for any of our readers to adopt as needed.

As to being “angry at the right time”—I will save that for another blog…

Posted in Associate Blog, News

PRAISE GOD FOR ANOTHER CHANCE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

On a recent Sunday morning, I was inspired before I even got out of bed.

After awakening and turning off the do not disturb feature on my cellphone, my phone vibrated immediately. When I checked it, I found a message from one of my cousins – she was sharing a music video.

I thought “why not?” and touched the play button. I am glad that I did!

What a message: Another Chance.

As I Iistened to the lyrics, I found myself lifting my hands in praise and thanking God for another chance – another day to make a difference in my part of the world. As I listened for a second time, I was on my feet, swaying and moving to the beat (or what some would call “getting my praise on”).

The song reminded me that even when I stumble, struggle, fall, or fail to do the right thing, I am blessed with God’s grace. It reminded me that God loves me, with all of my imperfections.

Each day that we wake up, we have another chance to do good, another chance to share our gifts, another chance to live a life of purpose.

Percy Gray Jr. and Joshua’s Troop (who rendered the upbeat, moving, joyful, uplifting song, “Another Chance,” with the help of DNell and Gerald Moore) reinforced for me the power of praise – how it invites God’s presence; how it refreshes and renews our spirits; how it puts our focus on God; how it accentuates the positive; how it is a proclamation of our faith in God; how it fills us with a sense of love and security; how it prepares us for God’s service.

Go ahead, take a listen. I dare you to sit still.

https://www.facebook.com/244767155550693/videos/2267298043297584/

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Liberation – One Heart at a Time

Blog by Associate Mary T. O’Connor

A close friend I will call Claire once confided something she had never told anyone. Claire is white, and grew up in a beautiful loving, supportive family. I had the good fortune to know her parents.

Claire enjoyed a very close bond with her maternal grandmother, who had always lived with them in the house on Maplewood Lane. He grandmother was her biggest support and celebrated every success. They were eating lunch together at home on the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Like many middle class white families in the sixties, north or south, they had a ‘domestic servant’ I’ll call Althea.

My friend heard her grandmother say to Althea, “It’s a shame that Dr. King was killed.  But perhaps it’s for the best. Things were getting out of hand. Don’t you think so, Althea?’

Althea responded “Yes, ma’am”.

My friend was bereft at the memory. She passed through the gate out of innocence in that moment with the horrible and irreversible revelation of genuine evil – in her own grandmother. She needed to cry it out, and I was happy to be a sympathetic witness and loving friend. I received her sorrow and gratitude that she could expose the pain to me.

Mixed in the sorrow was her own guilt for remaining silent at the table and for burying the memory of that day until now. She wept deeply. I guided her to the couch after she was spent and went to get us some water.

Though this conversation happened thirty years ago, it is as clear as the water I carried back to her. Though I did not have the language or the understanding of what I was praying about as I sat down, I see now it was the Holy Spirit showing up in my lived experience that gave me the grace to speak that day. I did not know Althea and would not presume to understand her life.  But I knew quite a bit about accommodation. I knew what it was to nod in accord with the ignorance and projected fears of majority culture.

“Claire, how long did you know Althea by then?”

“My whole life”, she said in a fresh burst of tears.

“So she knew your grandmother probably since before you were born?  

“Yes.”

“Think about that.   It was completely awful, what your Grandmother said – and then to put  Althea on the spot. But put yourself in Althea’s shoes.   Althea was used to your grandmother’s opinions.  Those terrible words did not have the power over her that  it had on you.  Who knows, maybe she was not even listening?  Maybe all she heard was “Don’t you think so. Althea?” and of course Althea would say “Yes Ma’am”’ 

But even if she did hear your grandmother’s whole comment, she was used to it. She would not have expected anything other than that.”

What does all that mean, thirty years later

I am no psychologist, but if we live long enough and stay curious and willing, some wisdom will stick.  Claire’s pain was profound and completely legitimate. Honoring that pain with love and compassion was a gift.  But her guilt for remaining silent as an eleven-year-old in shock was false. Her suffering for what Althea felt was fiction.

I am not saying that she did not feel the guilt and suffering, but it was completely misplaced, and not because she was a child when it happened. We white American adults do it all the time.  She was doing something we (white Americans, of which I am definitely one) do within the context of unconscious bias.

She was “taking care” of Althea. She was assuming something about Althea that was not true.

For over thirty years, she was living under the shadow of a false narrative.

Liberation of our hearts and souls is truly an inside job, and it’s a necessary step to recognize and speak those false narratives.  But that is our work – meaning White Christian Americans.  And it’s just the first step.

We are so used to running the show, controlling the story, steering the ship, whatever you want to call it – that we cannot see how tightly we grip the wheel.  Yes, telling the stories of our recognition of personal racism, bias, stereotyping is completely necessary – but don’t ask the oppressed group for their time and energy to absorb your mea culpa.

We have asked enough already.  We have to let go of the control, to recognize that just because we are on the long global winning streak of the most goodies, we are not writing the story.

If you have recognized the darkness in you, help your Aunt Millie see it, your beloved grandmother see it, help anyone who looks like you  – with love and kindness.  Think about praying for the President instead of denying he is your president in order to look good.

The work of liberation is one heart at a time, starting with our own.

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News