Thoughts on Choosing Your Battles

Janie Spahr, one the most gracious people I know, during her trial for marrying same-sex couples in CA.

Janie Spahr, one the most gracious people I know, during her trial for marrying same-sex couples in CA.

“Choose your battles . . .”  I have said it and I have had it said to me.

I have heard it as part of conversations about strategy,

“We need to choose our battles . . . because we need to use our resources and energy well.”

I have heard it as a way to convince someone not to enter into what may be a conflicted situation,

“I understand why you are angry, but you really do need to choose your battles and let it go.”

And as a way to dismiss the actions of someone else,

“Ugh, what a waste to time, X really should choose her battles better.”

Despite the militaristic imagery, I often think about “choosing your battles” as we raise our three daughters to be people of justice, compassion and hope — but in order to choose a battle well, one must first be willing to choose a battle at all.

In today’s internet age where conflict, dehumanization and vitriol seems to escalate so quickly, why would anyone in their right mind stand up for anything? I fully admit that I often avoid getting involved and justify my inaction by hiding behind a posture of being measured and deliberate. But truth-be-told, some battles are just not worth my time, physical energy or emotional bandwidth. Sure, I cannot fight every battle, but believe me, I am nowhere near fighting too many.

So what am I modeling for my daughters?

I hope I am modeling for them ways to be thoughtful, compassionate and gracious in their interactions, no matter how conflicted.  I also hope that I am not teaching them that it is easier to stay out of the fight altogether or good use of energy to judge those who do jump in. In the end, my hope is that when they feel called to fight an injustice or wrong in the world they will answer with action, passion and faithfulness. In doing so, they will discover and develop their voice, how they are can be part of movements and where their emotional and physical boundaries lie.

As a parent it has not and will not be easy to watch them go through this process, but it is an important one to nurture and encourage. From social interactions among classmates, church or family to larger global issues such as violence, race or the environment I have seen them all wrestle with how to personally engage. There will be times when I want them to stand up and other when I wish they would walk away, but I do hope they continue to have a spirit that struggles with how to be engaged in the world around them, no matter how conflicted it can be.

In fact, this is my hope for us all.

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