What I Learned from Protesting

Based on that title, some of you are here for a post all about the positives of protesting and its ability to affect legislation. Others of you are here for a post that details why protesting is the hallmark of entitled millennials and/or poor people who should be working instead. Guess what? You’re all wrong. This post is only peripherally about protesting. I just wanted to get you here. So now that you’re here, let’s go!

Yes, I participated in a protest against the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education. My sign said, “I Love Public School.” And I do. I work at one as a school counselor. But like I said, that’s not why I’m writing this. As a counselor, I have training in group counseling, thus I know a bit about group dynamics. There are two group dynamics that I either experienced or observed while at the protest. But I will further discuss them in the context of being in a faith community. See? The protest stuff is peripheral.

catharsisThis is simply a release of built-up emotions. At the protest, many of us had the opportunity to release feelings of frustration, disappointment, and anger through the use of holding signs and chanting phrases loudly. All those tweets, all those Facebook arguments, culminated into a very real, very loud barbaric yawp (Hey, Walt Whitman!). And I’ll tell you what, it felt GREAT!

Catharsis happens in many different settings all throughout our lives. It’s safe to say that many believers experience it on a weekly basis. When? During worship on Sundays. Or during an intense prayer sessions in small group. Or in the car after work, praising to your favorite music. I think you see what I mean. Release of emotion is a huge part of our collective faith experience, as well as on a personal level.

universalityThis can be summed up with one phrase: “We are not alone in our wretchedness.” While protesting dear ol’ Betsy, all of us educators and lovers of education felt unified in our common love of children and public schools. We knew we weren’t just peanuts in a gallery, we were warriors. Together.

Sound familiar? It should, because part of being in relationship with the Holy Trinity is knowing in your spirit that you are not alone in your wretchedness. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are with you. And not only is He with you, He understands you. This same experience can be felt at church or in small group. Or in your car. You get where I’m going with this.

So the next time you see a gathering of people, I hope you consider what I’ve told you here. I hope you recall a time when you experienced both catharsis and universality in a group that is special to you. And I hope you consider the roles these dynamics play in your own relationship with the Holy Trinity.

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