osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Permission to Feel Good.

I have noted the urge of very many people to emphasize how much there is still to do in the world on racism, gender discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Allow me to offer a community organizer perspective.

I have found, in my many years of experience, that you really need to take some time to savor the wins without the incessant reminders of how far there is to go. That it is critical to the sustainability of social movements to allow a day or two of simple pleasure in accomplishment WITHOUT the perpetual little buzz kill of how much more their is to do or the struggles ahead. Because if you don't allow people those moments of actual joy and accomplishment, they burn out. Because what is the point when every single time you accomplish something someone is there to helpfully remind you how much more there is to do, so don't get too happy now or think you've accomplished too much.

And so those who would feel accomplishment and revel in their moment of triumph censor themselves. They become defensive. They seek to preempt. How many people included the phrase (or an equivalent) "I know how much more we have to do, but I'm so happy now!" As if rejoicing now is somehow inappropriate, that we must seek pardon and permission to celebrate any milestone. And it works. The joy is diminished. The reward less. The labor made greater. And, over time, we lose our capacity for joy and become worldly and cynical and join the chorus to silence those who can still dare to take undiluted and unmitigated pleasure in their achievements.

"The labor is not for us to complete, but we are not free to turn aside" is cliche because it is true. It is also my experience that everyone involved knows that problems are not magically solved. But the human spirit needs wins, and the opportunity to savor them WITHOUT a reminder of how much longer this is to go.

Give permission to people to rejoice. For one day, do NOT remind everyone how much longer and farther and never ending the labor is. Who knows, perhaps you yourself may discover that, while the labor is not for us to complete, it is the gift of God to rejoice in our labors and see them prosper. For one who labors and takes no joy in it, says the Preacher, it is better had he never been born.

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