Tapping Out of “Fake Fights”

In 2016, my colleague, the Reverend Nancy McDonald Ladd, delivered a sermon at that year’s UU General Assembly, where she explained that she was tapping out (what wrestlers do when they are having a fake fight but it’s getting too close to real injury) of fake fights.

Let me immediately share that no, this is not a sly and passive-aggressive way of talking about anything happening right now at Live Oak. As far as I know, we’re communicating clearly and honestly with each other, and working hard to manage our own anxieties. Which is why I feel comfortable talking about this concept.

My buddy, the Rev. Eric Posa, often does interim work, where he’s helping a congregation through a transition. Hmm, he has said to me, I wonder what hook they’re going to hang their anxiety on?

Often, when we are anxious about big, scary things, we don’t address them directly. Instead, we “hang our anxiety” on something smaller and less consequential. At my home congregation, we were on the precipice of major change – we were moving to a new and larger location, and we were getting our first full-time minister. Did we address our anxiety about that? No! Instead, we had a fight about what our name should be. A fight that culminated with two of our most dignified elder members having to be restrained from a physical altercation with one another. Ironically, one of the names being considered was “Harmony.”

This is a year of high anxiety. We have a presidential election with a polarizing figure and many are afraid of what the consequences of the election might be. Connected to that, states across the country are considering legislation that is especially harmful for the LGBTQIA+ community and women.

We know the things we can do — we can vote, we can register voters, we can block-walk for good candidates, we can have difficult conversations with loved ones — but even with that, the enormity of the issue can feel overwhelming. We humans really hate the discomfort of feeling that things are beyond our control. And that’s when we are primed to turn to a fake fight.

I wish there were a checklist for how to determine if something is a “fake fight.” I don’t think it’s always so clear. I guess what I’m considering for myself is: is there a deeper meaning, or a deeper issue here rather than what people seem to be fighting over? Can we instead engage with the real issue? And – is this “fake fight” distracting me from a larger issue? Can I be brave and instead face that?