Bullies for Good
There is a whole string of epithets for people we call prophets. Annoyances. Browbeaters. Intimidators. Oppressors. Tyrants. Among others.
Rereading a line from the Hebrew Testament prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, an ever-challenging line comes through.
The thing of it is that I have met people who do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with their God. You might expect that would be some kind of big shot holy woman or man. Like a Teresa of Calcutta or pope or the Dalai Lama or someone famous. They’re only famous. Experience has proven that they are definitely not on the top of the list.
The men and women I have met who have been the most daring, difficult and absolutely, utterly annoying and argumentative people imaginable are ordinary men and women. One woman from my early childhood was known for her beautiful sewing and the lace she made. She was also outspoken about what she expected from every person she met. Slipshod behavior or bad manners were absolutely intolerable. One was always expected to be useful to others and — this was the sticking point — not to get caught at it.
A man I knew who was a very quiet, unassuming man was also a translator in China and Japan during the 1940’s. He was brilliant. Nothing at all like the dumpy, frumpy exterior he presented to the world. A deceptively witty man, he was a constant source of surprise for the people he knew and, as it turned out, had helped come to America from Asia and settle into productive lives.
Then there was a woman I met in my middle twenties. She was the prophet who introduced me to Micah’s words. She bothered, harassed, annoyed and otherwise upset both the local government and church bureaucracies. When she saw a need for action, it was because there was a genuine need to help the poor and underserved in a struggling community.
Not merely content to let me watch from the sidelines, she pulled me into the action. She partially got things done because she was related to or friends with many of the men and women in the community, including bureaucrats. She also got things done because she became remarkably deaf any time anyone tried to tell her something could not be done. The second or third time she was told a project could not be done she hunched over, eyes narrowed and stabbed the air while vociferously making certain that her audience — local bigwig or average person on the street — got the message.
To a prophet, No is not an acceptable answer.
It’s a dare.
In every part of my life I have met women and men who, like prophets of any and all eras, do good while trying not to get caught. Some deliberately set out to challenge the rest of us. As comfortable as we may be resting in our armchairs on others’ laurels, it doesn’t work. The most common reaction I have observed among those men and women has been amusement. The eyebrows may be raised a tick. There may — or may not — be seen the slightest twinkle in their eyes or twitch of the lips.
Do not be fooled into believing you could possibly cajole them into doing what you wish. They may appear to be upset as flattered. They neither want nor need our approval.
Those bullies for good, those people who set out to improve our world, to make it a better, safer and all-around healthier place for us all to live, do not require our permission.
Some of them are out to improve the world’s physical environment. All of them work to lift our spiritual environment.
We think it would take a miracle to make the slightest good thing happen. These bullies for good know that God gave them mountains in order to show others how they’re moved.
Why permit the slightest obstacle to stand in their way? With their laser-like focus, bullies for good get the job done.
The next time you come across one of them, remind yourself that there is only one sensible thing to do.