Tough Love

Author: Nicole Speer

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10

When I see you testing me, then I see the best in me ~Mary J. Blige (Tough Love)

Below is an excerpt from a Boulder resident’s public comment at a recent city council meeting.

“… I’m trying to be upfront and truthful; therefore, I say “A new level of sleaze has been attained by the self-proclaimed progressives in our City government… Nicole Speer… I find your behavior in this matter crooked, corrupt, dishonest, dishonorable, disgraceful, deceitful, double-tongued, deceptive, duplicitous, ignoble, sleazy, surreptitious, sneaky, stealthy, shameful, shabby, shoddy, two-faced, underhanded, unprincipled, unlawful? And also, very bad governance. How dare you? I mean, really, how DARE you?”

I won’t deny that in this climate of decreased physical safety for Democratic women and their families, attacks on LGBTQ+ people, and increased gun violence, this level of vitriol unnerves me. Particularly when some of my colleagues actively encourage this type of dialogue.

But after more than a year of trying to build bridges with the people who attack me for having different perspectives and fighting feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness in my failure, my faith has brought me to a space where the vitriol and hatred that was intended to make me weaker and keep me in my place has made me stronger, and more capable of doing the work God calls me to do.

My various layers of privilege have protected me from a lot of discomfort over the years, as has my decade of working in an organization where my intelligence, decision-making, compassion, and leadership skills are seen and valued. I haven’t needed to prove my worth to most people I encounter in a long time.

As I have chosen to put myself in a more public-facing role and use my privilege to advocate for changes to the unjust systems of capitalism, racism, and militarism that confer privileges to me at the expense of others, many of the people who benefit from these unjust systems are pushing back by removing the benefits they had afforded to me, such as kindness, safety, inclusion, and friendship.

Watching some of my privileges fall has been painful as it has forced me to recognize that the esteem in which I thought I was held was an illusion. It was an unearned benefit I received from participating in unjust systems – “hush money,” if you will.

As others have attacked my self-worth, these layers of illusory protection have started to wash away. In my rawness and vulnerability, I am finding the faith and grace that underlie my existence, and I am becoming more of the person God intends me to be. A person who will stand for justice in the face of any opposition. A person who recognizes that love for others is consistent with boundaries for oneself. A person who knows that true comfort and safety are out of reach until we have realized the Beloved Community.

Surrendering to the loss of my unearned privilege, letting go of my desire for easy relationships and outcomes, and learning to exist in a state of constant discomfort will continue to be works in progress, but I see now that the more I open myself up to attacks from those who fear justice and love, the more I enable my faith to empower me.

Giver of thorns and denier of comforts, thank you for fortifying us with your grace. Amen.


In honor of Black History Month, consider reading or re-reading Audre Lorde’s poem, A Litany for Survival, for an eloquent and insightful reflection on our illusion of safety.


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