Thoughts for when we feel alone in fighting for justice

Sometimes we feel alone. It’s as if we’re the only person standing against an army of opposition, with no one leading us, no one standing with us, no one protecting our backs. It’s scary.

Recently, I’ve felt this way. Some of my views put me in awkward positions with other conservative Christians. While I feel strongly about gender equality in the church, it’s hard to be the only person saying, “That’s not right!” to a roomful of people with the opposite conviction. It’s hard to speak up. I never know if anyone will agree with me.

I feel alone.

It may be a spiritual conviction that puts us at odds with other people.

It may be speaking out for justice when silence would be easier, and when silence is encouraged by others.

It may be a secret feeling that no one else in the entire world deals with the same fear, the same anxiety, the same burden that we wrestle in the dark places of our soul.

It may be any number of things causing the feeling, but the feeling is the same.

We’re alone. We’re afraid.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch faces crowds of unfriendly faces multiple times. At one point, the lawyer sits at the door of the jail housing his black client (a man wrongly accused of rape), staring down a group of white men who want access to this man, Tom Robinson. He stands in the doorway, refusing to let them in.

The newspaper editor, Mr. Underwood, is upstairs, watching from a window, his gun ready to fight. But Atticus doesn’t know this.

It’s a tense scene.

Oddly, what turns the mob away is the interference of Atticus’s young daughter Scout. She recognizes one of the men in the mob and begins babbling, all friendly-like and southern polite sweetness, about his legal entailment and the hickory nuts he once brought to their house and his son, a fellow classmate of her’s. “Maybe he told you about me, I beat him up one time but he was real nice about it. Tell him hey for me, won’t you?”

A long awkward moment.

Then the man tells Scout, yes, he’ll say ‘hey’ for her. At that, he calls to the rest of the mob to clear out.

The tension is diffused by a child.

The mob is driven away by a child’s appeal to a man’s humanity.

The lawyer who believes he is alone has others with him: children at his side, a man with a shotgun backing him up, and a town full of African-Americans who are grateful for his futile effort to defend Tom Robinson from the false charges.

Later, after the jury returns the inevitable guilty verdict, Atticus leaves the courtroom in haste. Scout, watching in the “colored” balcony, sees her father walk quickly down the middle aisle. He doesn’t look up.

“Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the people below us, and from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.

‘Miss Jean Louise?’

I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s:

‘Miss jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

–Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, chapter 21

This scene never fails to move my heart. Yet another time, Atticus feels alone. He’s the only white man who has openly spoken for justice on behalf of a wrongly accused man. The guilty verdict is unjust, and everyone in the courtroom knows it, including those who have just sentenced a man to death.

But he’s not alone. Unseen by him, there are those who honor his attempt to fight for justice. There are others who agree with him; the sheriff, for example, the judge who appointed Atticus as Tom’s lawyer, and the handful of folks who believe all people should have fair trials. Some of them cannot speak out because of their roles in the judicial process or because they have not been given a voice. But they are still there.

Atticus may be the lone person speaking in Tom’s defense, but he is far from alone in his views.

Sometimes when we feel alone, trying to stand by ourselves against something bigger, we aren’t. There are others who stand with us, though we can’t see them. At this moment, we may be the only person speaking. But our attempts to speak up for justice are not futile. Others are encouraged to speak, too.

And when they do, we will find that we were never truly alone in the fight.


6 thoughts on “Thoughts for when we feel alone in fighting for justice

  1. This is so very encouraging. I often feel alone, especially in the church, especially with the issues that are most important to me. Nobody, it seems, cares enough about modern slavery to do more than be appalled; nobody, it seems, wants to learn how to TRULY love the queers in the church. Nobody wants to face the racism and sexism that, even if we aren’t directly responsible for them, are still systems we need to fight. I feel desperate and alone, like if anyone knew what breaks my heart they wouldn’t want to know me anymore.

    It’s comforting to remember that I don’t see everything that passes on earth. I don’t see everything that’s passing in heaven, either. My new favorite song says, “God is fighting for us, God is on our side…”


  2. In many ways, not just in the fight for justice, we are never alone. We are all a part of something larger. Since you are a Christian, I would call that larger body the church, or the body of Christ. Since my personal beliefs are inclusive, I would debate that Christ’s body includes all of creation. We are all connected to our Creator. We are all a part of something much larger. None of us stands alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would call that “something larger” the body of Christ (the church) but also, the “cloud of witnesses” who are those who have lived before us and are now encouraging us in our journey. (I think the phrase “cloud of witnesses” appears in Hebrews, but I’m uncertain right now. Mid-afternoon slump!)

      Thanks for weighing in on this, Kitt. I know you’re fighting hard for justice for the mentally ill, and I appreciate all that you do!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another excellent post that stretched my weary brain cells. A powder puff blog, this is not!

    I’m not actively fighting for justice right now, but I’m hoping to do that in 2015 (bipolar disorder advocacy) with my wonderful buddy Kitt O’Malley by my side figuratively speaking and possibly, at some point, literally. Sometimes I want to take a permanent break from the whole bipolar scene. It’s tempting. But I won’t, as it feels like the right thing to do.


    1. I feel like I don’t do enough with advocating for the mentally ill; I have several other areas where I’m interested in advocacy work, but with trying to write fiction and blog and pull mom-wife-duty, it’s hard to balance everything!

      Your remark about this not being a powder puff blog reminded me of being in college and hearing fellow students talk about “bulling” or “fluffing” up their papers to make word counts. I never could figure out how they managed it; writing lovely-sounding nonsense just didn’t come naturally to me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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