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“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Throughout history, the destructive forces of oppression and abuse have been stoked by evil intentions, agendas and behavior. Yet, there is another source that can fuel insidious plans — the reliance on silence. Over the years, I have learned the value of silence for a specific reason — to listen closely to learn and grow. Keeping quiet for the purpose of being a student of others and situations is an admirable quality and discipline. But, the motivation to stay silent because of the consequences is a real fear gripping the hearts of many. Too often, our culture has exposed the destructive force of silence when it was necessary to speak up.

The fear to speak the truth in love and bring correction can be attributed by the addictive comfort of convenience. The convenience of not saying anything to avoid being the target of attacks, false accusations and slander certainly maintains the status quo. But, it can also lend itself to being complicit to a system, person or thought that only serves to cause greater pain. More than ever, our culture is facing some hard and inconvenient realities that must be addressed in an assertive manner. If not confronted head-on, it can serve to exacerbate conditions that are not helpful to anyone.


SEXUAL HARASSMENT & ABUSE


For example, the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are a few movements have shed light to a long-standing problem of sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation. Every time we hear a report of a celebrity, leader or influencer being toppled by substantiated claims, you may hear a collective sigh of disappointment. But, you may also hear others voice (after the claim) a lack of surprise. Why is that? It may be due to their knowledge of the person’s behavior in years past and a refusal to address it for the sake of their career or to curry favor. With all due respect, this is part of the problem. As more people speak out and share their stories, we must be diligent in investigating what happened and ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’ve wondered how many more people have stories that they are afraid to share because of what they think will be the consequences. How many more people are living in daily fear? While easier said than done, we must support the victims and their courage to speak out on their behalf and for the sake of others. We can no longer be silent or be silenced. As Dr. King stated emphatically, “the silence of the good people is the ultimate tragedy.”


OUR POLITICAL CLIMATE


The same applies to our current politics. For years, political allegiances have caused those who are supportive of a candidate or leader who has said or done something inappropriate to remain silent or to defend the indefensible. In the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton acted inappropriately in the White House, too many supporters of the President defended him. You may have agreed with his policies, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to speak directly to his lack of character. It also doesn’t mean you’re being hypocritical. When President Donald Trump reportedly called nations in Africa and Haiti, s**thole nations (Link to Story), such language from the leader of the free world has been universally viewed as unacceptable. Whether you agree with President Trump’s policies on immigration, the economy or his leadership of the nation, can we agree that such language will not make america great again? I’ve been dumbfounded by the silence of the good people and how anyone who values character and integrity can defend such remarks. The coarsening of our culture, the increased partisanship in our politics and the voluntary segregation of aligning with those who only agree with us, have led us to this moment. It is unfortunate to conclude that too many people will overlook clear infractions of dignity and respectability for the purpose of their agenda going forward.


SYSTEMIC INJUSTICES


Another area where silence has been destructive is the systemic injustices in the United States and our world. Whether it is the shooting of an unarmed person and its disproportionate amount in minority communities, the economic disparities amongst communities, gentrification, or even how American citizens are detained, incarcerated or addressed in our prisons, the silence is deafening. At times, the silence is due to not having enough information to address the matter. For those reading this blog, I encourage you to seek out reputable resources that can help in the study of these issues. The silence of the good people may also be due to the conflation of our opinions to facts. As the late NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was once quoted saying,

You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” 

In a culture that is peppered with the phrases “fake news” or “alternative facts”, we must be even more diligent in searching out the facts of an issue and debate the best course of action for the betterment of society. We shouldn’t dismiss debate, but we must reject the deliberate effort to intentionally mislead.


WHAT CAN WE DO?


I’m encouraged by those who are speaking out about injustices and inequality for the purpose of resolution and healing. There will always be voices serving the agenda of division. But, as we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., these voices are muffled by the collective voices of justice, healing, racial reconciliation and peace. It could be dismissed as naiveté, but I truly believe in the best of our humanity and civic discourse. The silence of the good people has reached a breaking point. Will we speak up on behalf of the defenseless, the helpless and the unprotected? And when we speak, will we add value to the national conversation? Join forces with a non-profit organization addressing societal injustices daily. Use your platform to address matters of concern and let your voice be heard. Call your local, regional and national legislators to voice your concerns. Make your voice heard in the voting booth. Hold your leaders to account for what they do or don’t do — what they say or don’t say. Collectively, let’s make sure when we speak, we have the courage of our convictions to follow through and backup what we say. In the words of Dr. King, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – RF


ABOUT AUTHOR

Ryan E. Faison is the College and Young Adults Pastor at Christ Church in Montclair & Rockaway, NJ and the Executive Director of Young Adults United. Ryan also serves on the Clergy Advisory Board for HomeCorp in Montclair and the Nyack Alliance Theological Seminary Alumni Association. Ryan serves as a preacher, worship leader, and producer at Christ Church. Ryan has been married to Kristyn (an educator and worship leader) for 7 years and lives in Northern NJ. Connect with Ryan online at @RyanFaison (FB, Twitter, IG, Snapchat, Periscope).

No one can escape the impact of loss.

The loss of someone who passes away, the loss of a friend through betrayal, the loss of health through illness, the loss of a marriage through a divorce, the loss of routines and stability due to a job loss or moving to a new country, the loss of innocence through abuse, the loss of the dream family through miscarriage, or the loss of a dream of a career. However big or small, everyone will go through loss in life.

The question is how do we deal with loss and its accompanying pain. The way to deal with loss is through grieving. Grieving is not limited to tears. The grieving process could be through artistic expression, journaling, or helping someone else in the area of your loss. Grieving is any way of getting the pain that’s inside out to the surface. Jesus said blessed are those who mourn (get the pain of what’s inside out), for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Personally, I know what it’s like to face loss – specifically the loss of innocence through sexual abuse at a young age. Through this loss, my life became consumed by fear – the fear of never being able to trust anyone, the fear of never being able to be mentally or emotionally stable enough to pursue the dreams that God placed on my heart, the fear that I was gay because of what happened to me as a child. Like many people, the pain of loss was so great that I suppressed it for many years and put on a happy Christian veneer to avoid the pain that I felt. After a number of emotional breakdowns, I knew it was time to come clean and stop lying about what I was going through. Fortunately, God placed a great support system around me who helped me find my way to a competent Christian counselor to begin to deal with the pain of the loss of innocence at such a young age. The first few steps were acknowledging the loss and starting the grieving process. Here’s what I learned in the process.

Each time we don’t grieve losses, 2 things happen:

  1. We begin to compartmentalize our lives where we walk around with a false optimism, pretending that everything’s okay. But the reality is that there is unresolved grief and if it’s not grieved fully, we are tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms like hiding/denial, minimizing, rationalizing, distracting, avoiding, addiction, becoming hostile or other unhealthy ways of not facing the pain.

While everyone thought all was well with Jon because I was accomplished – graduating with honors, getting my CPA license, working for a reputable company, etc., I dealt with secret addictions and emotional and mental battles that most people couldn’t believe. At different points, I also had bouts of anger that lead to disrespectful confrontations and misunderstandings and when I suppressed the anger, it led to depression. These issues kept me from having healthy relationships, walking in God’s perfect will, and were robbing me of the fullness of the destiny that God has for me. Once I understood what was occurring, I concluded that unresolved pain is like a beach ball pushed underwater – it will always find its way to the surface. In what ways are your unresolved issues showing up in your life?

  1. The 2nd thing that happens is that our hearts become hardened to avoid getting hurt again. Proverbs 13:12 says that a dream deferred makes the heart sick and when we experience loss, to keep the heart from getting sick again, we stop pursuing our dreams or even worse, stop dreaming. Grieving gives us the freedom and permission to risk again and set big goals for God. For close to a decade, I’ve worked in the corporate world, but I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. In the last few years, the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to work with young men from the inner city. Through a series of circumstances, I started working as a resident advisor in a transitional living facility aka group home teaching life skills to young men who have been temporarily displaced from their homes due to issues of abuse, a parent’s drug addiction, or a parent’s incarceration. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the pain that these young men faced would be similar to what I’ve known. Had I not grieved the pain of my past, I would not have emotional capacity to deal with the serious issues that came with the position, let alone possess the heart and empathy to walk them through their own pain in a healthy way. As bible teacher Geri Scazzero says in her book, I Quit, I could enter the pain of others because I’ve entered my own.

In life, there will always be grief because there will always be loss. We cannot choose our emotions selectively – to be happy and never to be sad. Let’s not neglect the benefit of grieving and embracing sorrow. As Ecclesiastes 7:3 says, a sad face is good for the heart. In a weird way, grieving pain leads to greater empathy and compassion for others, a better perspective of what really matters in life, and a restoration of the peace and joy of knowing that what God is doing is best. I’ve learned and continue to be reminded that joy truly comes in the mourning. What losses and pain have you yet to fully grieve and let God’s divine healing meet?

JonathanFrejuste

Jonathan Frejuste

 

Jonathan Frejuste was born and raised in Newark, NJ. He went to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia where he was saved at the age of 19. Though he has been saved for 10 years, God has taken him through a painful sanctification process which is what lead him to learn more about emotional health and how vital it is to one’s walk with God. He is currently serving as a life group leader at New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NY and is committed to giving people who have been broken by sin a safe place to heal and provide them with the encouragement and resources to pursue their destiny in God.

Connect with Jon via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jonathan-frejuste/42/202/b0a

 

Watch Jon’s Story here “The Story of New Life”: 

 

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