Flight, Fight, or Freeze

by Erica Fehr

I knew about the book The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King long before it ended up in my house through no initiative on my part, and when it did show up, it sat there on the coffee table even longer before I had the courage to read it. I dreaded finding out about the things I and my people-group had done to cause harm. I was sure I would be defensive. I was sure it would be an angry book. But I also knew it was the right thing for me to do because some of the people I love most are First Nations. It turns out the book was much gentler than I had feared, I was able to submit my guilt to Jesus, and what I learned was very valuable.

That was neither the first nor last time I struggled. I do not want to be nagged about my environmental responsibilities. I don’t want to have to sort through whether palm oil and quinoa are ethically produced, though I’m fine with avoiding quinoa. I’m also perfectly cheerful about planting trees and hugging them if I need to, though that’s just weird. I have my own moments to bash others and will death-glare people for littering and for saying racist things (and no, those are in no way equal on the offensiveness scale). I confess that back in March I thought the reaction to COVID was overblown and I don’t like wearing my mask—but I do—with a smile even—not that anyone can see it.

What puzzles me is why these things are so hard, when they are all fundamentally in line with my values. Two possibilities come to mind. One of those I learned from Janet Schmidt in the mediation seminars she held for EMC a year and a half ago. She said that hearing I am not the good person I think I am is an intolerable idea, and that my brain reacts with the same flight, fight or freeze response it does when I’m facing actual danger. That seems very odd, but I can’t deny that describes my own feelings at points, and also some of the reactions I see around me.

The other reason is one Paul explores in Romans when he describes why the law, instead of making me a better person, makes me want to do exactly the opposite.

Currently in The Messenger, not for the first time, we will be talking about things that aren’t entirely comfortable: from wearing masks to church rituals to what privilege actually means. It will also address shame itself in an article by Kevin Wiebe.

Erica Fehr

We’re not living in a particularly fun time, but we’re not rookies either. We’ve faced difficulty before. We’ve wrestled with sin and shame. We are forgiven and we are loved.

I’m convinced we have what it takes to get through all of this and come out stronger and more faithful. And we will because Jesus is faithful and He is with us.

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