Resistance, + or – ?


Resistance. Do you hear this word as positive or negative?

I’m guessing that it says something about me when I confess that my first interpretation of this word is negative, something akin to disobedience. It is the child who resists a parent’s instruction to brush teeth and wash hands and go to bed. It is the criminal’s resistance of a police officer who has caught them in the act of committing a crime. It is the set-in-her-ways member of a local church pitching a fit over new carpet, new seating, new music, a new pastor. Sometimes people take on a posture of resistance to everything, good or bad. I’ve seen a 2-year-old do that is a way to express his feelings of anger at not being in control OR of over the fact that the adults in his life are out of control. Surely we can agree that resisting something that is good for us is rarely a good thing to do. I resist getting up 20 minutes earlier to take a proper walk in the morning, for instance, and that is not good.

I’ve grown to understand resistance as a good thing. We should resist injustice. We should resist evil. The fact that it has taken decades for this metamorphosis in my understanding of the idea of resistance is, at least in part, due to the fact that I’ve grown up privileged and been ignorant of much of the injustice in the world because it did not touch me. I have mostly encountered power and authority that was either invested in what was best for me or that ignored me. My parents, though imperfect, instructed me in the ways of life and flourishing. My social status as a white girl living in small towns or the suburbs ensured that the police and others in authority (teachers, store security guards, camp counselors) always gave me the benefit of the doubt not extended to everyone.

Once again, as I think about words and their meaning — and about how our cultural and historical context influences meaning — I am struck by the miracle that occurs any time we come to a place of understanding across our differences, especially around things that matter.

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