It's the Kindness, For Me
After years of arguing, debating, and fighting back, I'm learning that maybe kindness is the only thing that gets results.
Special guest post today from my dear friend Matthew Lovegood, aka, Flamy Grant. I’ve known Matthew for almost a decade now and have been inspired by his journey. His words below—in which he reflects on his discovery about the power of kindness—beautifully articulates one of my most deeply held values. Enjoy.
When I spend time engaging with religious fundamentalists (I know — I promise I don't do it often)…
I'm usually left hopeless at our inability to communicate.
I can anticipate their every argument, every verse they're going to quote, every platitude in their arsenal that reinforces their rightness while dismissing my whole being — my entire lived experience, intuition, spirit/spirituality/spiritual practice, and the work I've done.
The distance between us is massive.
It can't be crossed intellectually or emotionally on the internet, or even when meeting in person. There's no actual exchange, no true listening, not an atom of openness.
When they say "love the sinner, hate the sin,"
I can't take them on my decades-long journey to better understand love. I can't walk them through how they’ve misunderstood and mislabeled love. Explaining that what they’re doing is not-love isn’t an option — we don't have time to go through the work of bell hooks.
When they say "the Bible is clear," I can't bring them along my lifelong journey with a sacred text, all the exegesis done by scholars who helped me see things in new light, the danger and smallness of a literal and unadaptable reading of ancient words never intended for them.
I can't help them stop spiritual bypassing. I can't force feed them the hours and days of music and podcasts that healed me. I can't take them on a journey of inner child work or introduce them to a therapist.
I can't convince them that I am healed rather than haunted or depraved or reprobate.
And I can't heal them.
The vast majority of them will walk away from our interaction even more stubbornly insistent that they have all the answers. Even less empathetic than they arrived. Even less likely to listen to the next person who challenges their hate and arrogance.
I've argued and pleaded with and debated in every format, on every platform, to every tune I can think of over the years.
One thing has been almost universally constant in these interactions: Their “faith” is actually fear — and it turns them
It's the kindness, for me.
When I reflect on the moments where I expanded, grew, evolved, and transcended, they always happened in a cocoon of kindness. Whether it was a kindness I gave to myself or one extended to me from a fellow traveler.
I didn't have the bird's eye view. There was no one compelling argument that changed my mind. I was never Saul on the road to Damascus.
But my moments of miniature transformation are bookended by kindness.
I am learning — so, so slowly learning — that perhaps the most effective tool I possess is an ability to resist the bait, to not overexplain, to not engage with the arguments and platitudes and Bible verses.
And to instead offer a gesture of kindness.
Just a moment to let them know they are seen. That their own deeply internalized pain matters.
A gentle acknowledgment of their dignity, even as they behave in the most undignified of ways.
It doesn't mean I can't fight when I'm called to. At the ballots, of course. In defense of a specific individual or group of people, of course. Courage, of course.
I know that's its own platitude. But unlike "love the sinner, hate the sin," this one gets results.
It takes all kinds, and we might find ourselves in any of these roles at any given moment: the fiery confrontations in the public square, the activists at the march, the policy writers, the nurturers tending to our wounded, the parents, the teachers, the documenters, the artists.
I think there's a place for kindness in all of it. I'm in pursuit of that. I want to be more kind.
It won't change their mind in the moment. We still probably won't communicate very well.
But it might remind them that they are human.
And more importantly:
that we are, too.
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ABOUT FLAMY GRANT
Flamy Grant is a shame-slaying, hip-swaying, singing-songwriting drag queen with Appalachian roots who now calls San Diego home. She time traveled from a 90s Lilith Fair tour, bringing with her a roots-rock sound influenced by gospel and Americana. Her music shines a spotlight on the queer spiritual journey, telling stories of resilience and recovery from religious trauma. With a bold lip, a big lash, and a blistering voice, Flamy is here to rewrite the rules when it comes to religious music, demanding a reckoning for an industry that has for too long silenced and shut out its LGBTQ+ artists and fans.
Check out Flamy’s brand new album, Bible Belt Baby