You know what I find terribly ironic? I have lost a lot of “friends” because people view me as being divisive, yet the folks who talk about how divisive I am have made it a point to break fellowship with me.
The conversation (if there even is one) always centers on how my words are divisive and do more to pull people apart than they do to bring people together. Yet here they are, dividing themselves from me. I’m talking about long-time friends who have done this. People with whom I’ve shared important moments like weddings and baby showers. People that I have worshipped with. People that I have sat with during particularly vulnerable and difficult moments. People with whom I’ve shared long and deep conversations.
These people often have had my phone number. They are people with whom I could sit down and have a real conversation in real space (or virtually as it were because of the pandemic). Yet, some of these folks just get mad and flounce without ever saying anything as if I have done something to them personally. The ones who have the gumption to talk to me have already made their decision and are not interested in anything that I would have to say to them.
What’s funny is that, in many of these cases, I have overlooked their behavior toward me in real life. I have ignored hurtful and insensitive comments. I’ve ignored their sexism and racism. And on social media I have extended them the courtesy of not correcting them, and if I do make a comment, only offering information or a differing perspective–opting instead to educate them through my presence on the platform so as to spare them the awkwardness of a confrontation. I have extended grace upon grace that they didn’t even know they were receiving.
But when I say some words on an app that they don’t like then suddenly they are so offended that they must immediately erase me from their lives. Years of knowing one another, laughs, moments together gone in an instant. Erased as if I never existed. Many times without the ability to say goodbye or to try to convince them that I am not who they think I am.
I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t hurt. I am a real person with real feelings, and yes, I feel bad when someone decides that they no longer want to be my friend. Social media has made this natural part of growing up a little more complicated because people have the ability to make their comings and goings from your life more public. As an activist, I always wonder if people defriend me because of the things that I’ve said. However, someone sliding into my inbox to tell me that it is exactly why they are cutting me off doesn’t feel any better. It usually, but not always, ends up feeling worse.
But it’s okay. Like it’s totally fine. For real.
Like I said above, I find it to be ironic. If I’m being divisive, then how is dividing themselves from me going to remedy the divide? Wouldn’t it make more sense to choose to stay connected? If what I said harmed them in some way, wouldn’t it make more sense to give me the opportunity to make things right? If I have become a toxic and harmful person (because we’re assuming that we would not have remained friends all this time if I had started out that way), why didn’t they say something when they saw me take on said traits?
Of course all of these questions are rhetorical.
I’m okay with it because I recognize that our lives are journeys and we don’t get to take everybody with us. There are people with which we may be called to walk for a time or a season and then no longer. There are people who walk beside us, behind us, and ahead of us. There are people who walk on top of us (and we on top of others). Sometimes we think that we’re on the same path as others only to realize that it was an illusion. Sometimes we get thrown off a path by people with whom we once walked. Sometimes we get invited to walk with a whole new group of people.
On the path of anti-racism, there are times when we are going to find ourselves at odds with others. There are times when the path might feel hard and lonely. But if we keep on pushing toward what is right, we will find our people.