Being a Quaker isn’t just about going to Meeting on Sunday morning. It’s about opening yourself to being transformed and then living in way that not everyone will understand. How do we find the courage?
Quakers believe that there is that of God or the sacred in every person and that all are equal before God.
The Courage to Be a Quaker
My name is Deborah Shaw. I live in Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m a member of Friendship Friends Meeting, which is part of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, Conservative. And I work at Guilford College, as the director of the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program.
Quakerism as Countercultural
To listen to the still, small voice does feel very countercultural. It feels like a radical step against what the world—capital-W World—is telling us to do. I think in our culture, we’re told we have to figure everything out. We have to do it. There’s this idea that we’re fiercely independent.
The thing about the still, small voice and Quakerism, as I experience it, is that I hear something and then I go and test it with a trusted Friend.
I say, “this is what I’m hearing. How does that appear to you? Does that make sense to you? I’m not holding it up against an advertisement of the newest vehicle or the newest electronic gadget, but I’m holding it in the heart. I’m asking a Friend, or a group of Friends or the Meeting to hold it in their hearts and to listen carefully themselves to “Is that right? Does it feel like that’s of God? Or does that feel like it’s Deborah’s ego?”
Mentoring Younger Quakers
In my work with the Quaker Leadership Scholars at Guilford College, I often find myself talking to them—18 to 21 year olds—about the radical courage it takes to stand against the culture. The culture is so insidious and overwhelming. Everywhere we are, we are bombarded by it constantly, and it is telling us something very different than what our Quaker faith tells us, or what the still, small voice tells us, or what our inward teacher tells us.
So I say to them, it is a hard path to choose and to walk. And you need allies in it, and you need people who are trying to do the same thing. To do it alone is virtually impossible. To stand against the culture, and to stand against the influx. Just the continual bombardment of the culture, which is telling us we’re not worthy, which is a lie. That we’re not worthy unless we do these certain things and buy these other things and act a certain way or achieve this certain goal of material possessions. There’s so much of it.
Or that we’re not thin enough or that our noses aren’t right. It just takes a lot of courage and companionship to say, “No. I am a beloved child of God, just as I am. With all of my imperfections and yes, I’m striving to be more perfect and more whole and more fully who I’m supposed to be but even as I am right this minute, I’m a beloved child of God.”