If you’re like me, then you ain’t afraid of shit. By default, you speak your mind. You affirm those that you care about, and you boldly counter those that you strongly disagree with. Add that revolutionary, social justice flare with the set of Jesus-inspired values taught by grandma, and you have the kind of leader that is ready to combat every jot and tittle of injustice and get martyred on every on every hill. Yep. That’s me, a “ride-and-die” leader, at least by default. It usually makes my life exciting, and other people feel inspired by it. But, truth be told, it has gotten me into lots of trouble, even for little things that when I pause and think I realize don’t even matter. There have been many days when I woke up in the morning and said to myself, “Dang it! There goes my job / credibility / friendships. Why did I open my mouth?”
I’d like to think that over the years I have gained some wisdom. I have, though I got a long way to go. Don’t get me wrong: I am still quick to confront injustice and unfairness, but I am not waking up every other day with a sense of embarrassment and remorse. This doesn’t mean that I’m compromising my values, my beliefs, or who I am. It just means that I am learning from experience (esp. trial and error) how to navigate my gifts of zeal and boldness with precision. Simply put, I am learning how to “go out with a bang” and not regret it.
So for my ride-and-die leaders, what I have received from my sages and from my own experiences I give to you: think of the top three things on your list that you are most passionate about and that you are most willing to be excommunicated for and stand for these. If you think this is limiting and you’d rather challenge everything that gets in your way, have at it. You got my blessing. But if you are wanting to grow in the art of precision, take it from me, identify those three things and give it 100. And if you get backlash for it, know that you already counted the cost a long time ago.
Personally, the top three things that I am willing to go out with a bang for are (1) confronting discrimination (racism/sexism/classism/etc.), (2) not compromise my integrity with my friends/neighbors (viz. the poor and marginalized), and (3) my relationship with God / Jesus. Things outside of this may be subject to evaluation, but they will not immediately trigger my martyr complex. The result: healthier relationships across a diverse spectrum of people (people trust me more), less emotional stress (and impulsiveness), and my words/actions have more weight in public settings than they did back in college. The most important thing is that when the moments to make my stand do come and I choose to take them, I feel proud of myself even if the consequences are not in my favor.