A middle ground is an exhausting place to stay.
I don’t believe in it anymore.
Oh, I believe in a middle ground between Ketchup and Mayonnaise (I know this is controversial here, I mix those two, but stay with me), when it comes to people and values and politics our middle grounds are nebulous or non existent at best and harmful and oppressive in most cases.
Without healthy boundaries or discernment it’s easier to become naïve about harmful people and to become blind to the suffering of others. Tunnel vision is the result.
On an individual level it can keep us stuck in unhealthy relationships and on a societal level it can make us complicit in keeping the marginalized out.
How do you feel about saying to someone “you are wrong and your views are very harmful”?
If we come from a fundamentalist background it is easy to become paranoid about black and white thinking. Especially if we are afraid of being wrong, it’s easier to downplay the validity of having any strong opinion.
If we were damaged by opinionated people twisting fine things into “evil” or if we saw shunning or demonizing of anyone who disagrees it creates fear in us of replicating those systems.
It’s tempting to want to present ourselves as open-minded by looking for a “peaceful middle ground”.
But if our fear of black and white takes away our lines for just and unjust actions and behaviors, we become a tool for causing harm by our apathy and fear of conflict.
“I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
We often want to see everyone in shades of grey, and it could lead us to not recognizing when someone is being a “snake” or “viper”. Labels Jesus did not hesitate to use.
If our thoughts on people attacking others focuses on niceness in social media posts rather than actual oppression in real life we might have lost our focus on what true attacks are.
Looking for a middle ground also causes us to lose discernment over power dynamics and true oppression by creating false equivalencies. For example I’ve heard of people talking about how the opposite of misogynistic men forbidding women to lead or preach in a church is radical man-hating feminism.
I haven’t met the radical feminist who hates men yet. I was warned about her in evangelical culture (to keep me fearful and skeptical about feminism) but I’m learning that there are people who hold positions of power in society and those who are marginalized.
The more privilege we have the harder it is to see these dynamics and the easier it gets to deny that oppression. Holding onto and ignoring our privilege makes it easier to overlook. Imagining that oppression always goes both ways erases the oppressor and those “two sides” keeps us off the side of examining our privilege by putting us in a neutral category where we don’t need to see how we benefit from a structure that oppresses others.
I’ve never seen a church yet that forbids male leadership or male preachers. Why haven’t these radical man-hating feminists done this yet if misogynistic men have? Is she possibly a non existent character invented to keep oppression from being called out or dismantled?
I don’t believe in reverse racism either. These are concepts privileged people make up to ignore the systemic nature of power structures that deny equality and oppress people.
Having to fend for and justify abusive or oppressive behavior because we like someone or are afraid to have to confront or deal with it ends up draining our energy. Having our heads in the sand will suffocate our souls.
Living in cognitive dissonance is tiring. It puts us in the company of shady people. The “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a manipulator who looks for empathetic people to exploit that grey (“I wanna be nice” as a top value/ let me avoid taking a stance to be included everywhere/ the need to not “sound mean”) thinking.
Having balance is important until you are searching for middle ground when kids are being locked in cages. A political middle ground is not a thing. Different sides hold completely different values.
Before I had shed a lot of my toxic values I still tried to hold space for “the middle” because I was focused on intention rather than impact. I knew that I meant well when I held some harmful beliefs and part of me was not fully convinced of their harm yet.
Mental gymnastics cause a special kind of burn out for empathetic people.
“Everyone is a work in progress” can be used to minimize homophobia or racism or domestic violence. Even spiritual abuse. Intentions are not more important than impact.
We need to keep in mind that not everyone is willing to grow and those compromises are slanted in favor of oppression.
As a great quote I heard says:
“Meet me in the middle”, says the unjust man.
You take a step toward him.
He takes a step back.
“Meet me in the middle”, says the unjust man.
– A.R. Moxon