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Integrity Guides Our Way Forward as Friends

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Photo: Kelli McClintock-Unsplash
I think whatever gets one to a place of sanity (that does not harm self or others, of course) is essential right now. We are living through a constant assault with all the bad news and truth about how depraved people are--that kind of barrage of info provides the mortar for trauma, and most of the folks with any values or kindness are getting whacked with all of it.  I don't think it is bad to vent as long as a perspective remains--as in giving voice to pain and moving on, vs. keeping at it hoping to hurt someone--being clear is important.  And, at times we've all said or done something we wish we could pull back, but the difference is living in it and liking it. Integrity is how we recognize when to step with care or purpose, and how to amend if we could not resist stomping. Intention, awareness, and truth help to guide us as Friends default to being ‘patterns and examples.'

I find that people have misrepresented Quakers as these bendable soft mushballs who accept and love everyone without any thought or awareness. There is a difference to knowing there is that of God in someone yet still holding them accountable for words and actions that are harmful; I think the testimony of integrity is crucial in how we walk in the world. There is no reason to accept the actions of abusers, just as there is no way to have unity with a white supremacist, unless there is a transformation of personality and a shift to a moral ground. And Quakers should be calling all this stuff out in ways that reflect those testimonies, not just sitting back like passive lumps thinking that's the manner of Friends. We seek in the Spirit not only in worship, but in our way of being in the world. We, like early Friends, wait expectantly— “here I am, send me” (Is. 6:8). That we do it is essential, and how we do it matters a great deal.

Part of the difficulty of doing this from a peaceful, settled center is the work it takes as an individual to get there. There really isn't a prescribed set of steps--it's a practice over time of waiting and listening for God and being able to discern movement after that in response. This is the difference in being faithful through effort rather than entitlement. As I said earlier, we have been subjected to anxiety producing news and events relentlessly for years, and it has not quite turned the corner yet. It is important work to find a proper way through that experience which has harmed our sense of safety, trust, and community. If we start with integrity, and really place that testimony as an authentic practice in our daily life, we will have an essential piece of living a life grounded in God. There is really no other way forward if we want to keep a relevant witness as Quakers.

Jan Dahm