The past few years in politics have been really bad for the kind of language and gestures that we have tolerated. In the big echo-chamber that is social media, chances are we are all guilty of having been unkind and ungenerous in the way we address someone over a political disagreement, or shows of ignorance were met with gossiping and snarky comments. Personal attacks are at the order of the day. Over time, it has really started to wear me down. I got involved in politics because I wanted to make a difference. I don’t like that we have a mentality where there are winners and losers, and ideological purity is prized above the common good. As 2017 ended with the early signs of burnout and an illness still plaguing me in February holding me to a bed with nothing better to do than think, one of my resolutions from 2018, strongly linked to my word of the year (rooted), was that my actions should glorify God. So politics was one of the big areas in which I felt I had to put boundaries.
One such boundary is, as you probably guessed, that I don’t engage in any negative politics. If I have in the past, mea maxima culpa. I’m not engaging in behaviour that would bring me brownie points from my side while simultaneously making me feel rubbish about myself because I believe that words are powerful and words should build people up.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29)
Another boundary that has to do with campaigning is that I don’t campaign on Sundays, no matter how many people think it is necessary to win an election. I have done it in the past, and it really meant that there was no sabbath, no day that isn’t tainted by the everyday. I was driven by a scarcity mentality, accepting a shift pattern that meant my life was in control of work for fear of not getting a job to pay for my upkeeping when it turns out the company had plenty of shops open only until 3pm Monday to Friday I could work in, and when it came to campaigning thinking that working around the clock really impacted the income. As a Christian, I should believe that God is ultimately in control of any outcomes, and also Sundays should be special, so the only work that I do on those days is feeding the hungry and clothing the naked as I see them as a form of worship equal to going to a church service.
A third political boundary is that I am more discerning in the people I surround myself with. I make an effort to engage with different viewpoints and understand where people are coming from when they disagree with me, but in the attempt to keep an open mind I have engaged with some people who are, in hindsight, not worth the energy. So I only engage with people who have a genuine desire to understand, share their point of view in a respectful manner, and agree to disagree if they can’t influence change or be influenced by you to change, without resorting to depriving the other of their humanity. In fact, I disengage people who agree with me who do the same, too.
Another boundary I have is more personal, and it involves not sharing details of my work with my family. They still treat my business as working projects while I wait for anything better to turn up, and don’t take self-employment as a serious career despite the fact someone owns the businesses where they work. It’s not worth the effort to try and explain myself to people who don’t want to understand, and that’s in general a rule for life and not just for politics. However, this year politics really was the biggest thing for me in terms of behaviour to change if I want to live a Christian life. I cannot let the way big marketing minds in an office a few miles away think things should run to win influence the way I do politics. I’m not in it for winning as an end in itself. Winning is a matter of being in a position of having enough power to do the things that were the ends you were fighting for.
One of my friends shared on Facebook an article on Motherly titled “In the absence of the village, mothers struggled most“. I think, fundamentally, that what involved me in politics in the first place was a desire to see that village come back, not as a village per se but as a society where people can rely on each other and share responsibilities for one another. Modern life seems to demand so much of individuals, and it’s no surprise how many of us are struggling to cope. Politics is but one of many ways to build this village, the Church being another (and the more fundamental one, as we nourish ourselves to go out into the world and be salt and light). Setting boundaries around the way I engage in politics is a way to try and get away from the campaign mentality and rediscover the service mentality that took me to the IMPACT course so many years ago.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Boundaries”. Find the rest of the series here.
P.S. I was meant to be one of the co-hosts for the linkup on 14/02, but I have been ill with tonsillitis. The post has been backdated as I have decided to still share my thoughts on the specific topics, but as the linkup is now close I did not add the details about it.