I’m a bit of a justice junkie. I work in a prison, help to run a food-waste cafe, live in a Christian community, boycott Starbucks and News Corp., write poetry about injustice, run outreach projects, campaign about elections and tweet about the refugee crisis.
I am, what I would call, ‘a bit worthy’. Not only do I have so many causes that I keep some at my aunt’s house*, but I’m also an extrovert so I can’t help but relentlessly tell everyone about them. Everyone I met over Christmas knows exactly how many mince pies are wasted in the UK each year (74 million) and nobody asked.
And I’m bloody exhausted. All. The. Time.
Sometimes I have visions of cracking up after another lost election and diving into Primark with a Big Mac in each hand, singing along to misogynistic songs, only stopping briefly to apply for a job in the arms trade.
We’re supposed to be anguished by poverty, inequality and injustice, but not defeated by it.
Here are a few lessons I’m trying to learn about how to care about the world without smothering yourself in your own compassion.
Come to terms with idea that you will inevitably contribute to systems that maintain inequality – unless you want to go and live off-grid. It’s difficult to be at peace with this tension, but it’s also completely inefficient to be preoccupied and paralysed by it. Do your best to opt out of the worst bits and then find comfort in the idea that God is in the business of redeeming what is broken and your part in that, in the grand scheme of things, is quite small.
2. Acknowledge disappointment.
Disappointment unacknowledged will fester. When someone you are supporting through drug withdrawal doesn’t manage it. When you are on the losing side of a referendum you’ve spent months campaigning for. When a project you’ve started is not as successful as you’d hoped. In our house, we sing out the disappointing situations, do a disappointment dance, and use our spiritual scissors to cut off the feelings of failure. On my cycle home I might lament aloud to the trees about my rubbish day of despair and injustice. There is little more tiring than carrying around resentment.
3. Treat yourself.
After several years of denying myself big holidays because of the carbon cost of flying, I have booked a trip to India with another justice junkie friend. Almost everyone I mention it to asks if I’m visiting an orphanage or volunteering with an NGO. To save you asking: no, I’m not. I plan to stroke one of the monkeys from Planet Earth II, eat a lot of calories, and stock up on hareem pants. Then I will Instagram it. No one is going to benefit from me being a martyr. Take days off, eat nice food, do the things that make you flourish.
Take off the cape. We already have a saviour. We don’t need another one.
*see Tiny Tempah