“My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” ~Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
This line from Jane Austin’s classic novel has always stuck with me. And not only because of the quiet austerity with which I first heard it spoken by Colin Firth.
I’ve been confronted with this reality enough times in my life that it seems a good time to reflect on it. Some of the truth in these words, for me, come from episodes where trust was broken. Someone does or says something very hurtful and they are immediately transformed into someone I no longer trust with the intimacy of my heart.
Other times, I’ve found myself standing up for someone else I believe is being treated unjustly. For whatever reason, God put a whole lot of fight in my amygdala and not much flight.
Sounds good right? Especially in our current age, the call to justice echoes all around us. The painful examples of racism, homophobia, classism, sexism, xenophobia litter our news and our every day existence that to not participate in the fight truly makes you complicit in the oppression. It is necessary.
What never makes it into the heroic stories of good triumphing over evil is the toll it takes. In real life, when you chose to stand up to power, you will experience isolation and grief. Power fights hard and often dirty. Power wants you to feel alone. Power wants you to bargain away your ethics and will accuse you of malevolence when you don’t.
See, there’s a difference between reconciliation and acquiescence. Reconciliation means that power has to acknowledge that injustice has occurred and they caused it. And in my experience, power will just not do that. Instead, power will blame you. Power will tell you that if wasn’t for you and your disruptive opposition, everything would be fine. That things are not peaceful because *you* are the one who refuses to reconcile.
But they don’t actually want your reconciliation. They want you to apologize to them for daring to call attention to their abuse of power. They will call you unfeeling, stubborn, and hard-hearted. Those they hurt have already been pummeled into silence, or more likely, shoved out the door, so they must erase all evidence of what they have done. To everyone else they will blame you for the ramifications their abuse has caused. While also creating a cautionary tale of what happens to anyone who dares oppose them.
And that’s when I go full-on Darcy on your ass. It’s not about a refusal to reconcile. When you show me who you are, I promise, I will believe you. Whether it’s an abusive boss, an ageist community board, or a cruel president, injustice looks the same. Planting yourself “like a tree in the river of truth” is only unyielding to those who refuse to swim.
It’s not about forgiveness either. The very reason why the gospel has always resounded so loudly to me is because Jesus was unequivocal about justice. Those who have been wounded and marginalized are those with whom he sided every single time. And he stood so firmly against those who abused their power that the only thing left to silence him was to kill him. Pleading for God to forgive his murders had nothing to do with his dedication to stand opposed to the abuse of power. The message of that forgiveness was never meant to be that his murderers were right to punish him for his acts of resistance. Jesus’ forgiveness was a pure, undeserved , GIFT! Yet those who seek to get away with their injustice will demand your “forgiveness”. Even Jesus knew that was God’s alone to give.
There is little peace in a commitment to justice, whether in an office, on a pool deck, or from the pulpit. There’s lots of grief and plenty of loneliness. And I’m quite certain the word “stubborn” will be etched on my gravestone. But I’d rather that than bear the shame of knowing I should have stood up for someone and didn’t.
“I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created, was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created.”
“I am,” said he, with a firm voice.