On occasion, I have been asked to identify the role I typically play in a group--you know, for example, the peacemaker, the encourager, the executive. Well, I find that most often, I am the outsider. I have a tendency to feel out of step with everyone else, and if I see a group moving together in one direction, I tend to be the one who tries to point out everything that's wrong with what they're doing.
This came up in group work during my hospital chaplaincy internship. I realized then that being the outsider can get really lonely, and I decided I was not content to continue isolating myself in the name of being different.
Easier intended than done. But I hope I am making progress.
After I posted about the Occupy Wall Street movement yesterday, I immediately started thinking I'd been too hard on them. I could see that essentially my criticism was that they are an unorganized rabble and aren't accomplishing anything--and in the background of this criticism, my general skepticism about the typical proposed solutions of the progressive wing.
I still think "the outsider" can play an important role, and I still think it was worthwhile to publish my thoughts--I think I made a valid point, except that it was too harsh. And I couldn't help smiling when I saw the comment by "Trendsetter" that all the angry mob really needs is a good leader. I had just amended my thinking to reach that very conclusion ... (The words that came to my seminary-trained mind being, "They're like sheep without a shepherd.")
I had also been thinking, from the beginning, to write a follow up post titled "Starting With The Man In The Mirror," reflecting on how I can be the change I wish to see, and actually propose something constructive instead of just criticizing others. That's going to be a hard essay to write, because honestly, I get so overwhelmed by the complexity of everything, it feels impossible to select the best option.
But I'm starting to see how "the outsider" might someday become "a prophet." No, I have no delusions of being there yet. Clearly, I am still in the stage of being uncharitable and overly critical and isolating myself by being "different." And I appreciate everyone who has listened with patience and grace and found what was worthwhile in my "different" perspective, in spite of the unworthiness of the spirit in which I have, at times, written or spoken.
I also appreciate finding out I'm not so alone after all. My brother found this essay by someone with a clearer understanding than I had yesterday: "The Conflicting Conflicts of Occupy Wall Street" by James Pearson.
Anyway ... thank you to those who have listened for the good in what I have to say. Your gracious, respectful attitude encourages me to be kinder to others. I will try to be less of a critical outsider and strive to imitate the great compassionate prophets whose stories I know.