Justin Tadlock

Like a Tree

Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or consequences.

When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world —

“No, you move.”

Captain America

I have been thinking about this quote a lot this past week. I heard a revised edition of it, spoken by the character Sharon Carter, in Captain America: Civil War. The same night I watched the film, a friend posted the full version from Spider-man #357 on Facebook. It has stuck with me for a few days.

As a writer, it is easy to fall into the trap of second guessing everything you write. Some level of scrutiny over one’s work is necessary for good writing. The editing process is where you do real writing. It is the point where you shape and mold the words into something that may be worth reading. However, there is also a point where you simply pull the trigger and publish. That second guessing, editing, and rewriting cannot go on forever. You must let your work stand and put it out there for the world.

Editorials, opinion articles, and think pieces are often more of a struggle than other forms of writing. At times, you are fighting yourself, crafting a jumble of thoughts into something presentable. The end result can be messy. But, the idea is to get the audience to think. To communicate. Step outside their own shoes for just a moment to view the world through a different lens.

Some people will hate you for it.

A few months back as I was starting my journey as a daily writer, a journalist friend told me, “I’m not here to make friends.” It was a powerful reminder that sometimes we have to be the bad guy. The quote was not about seeking conflict. It was about telling the truth in the face of all else. Sometimes that is reporting unsavory news about people, a company, or a product in an ecosystem of which you are a part. Sometimes it is about exploring inner truths through opinion pieces or representing viewpoints that you do not necessarily agree with. At the end of the day, it is about being true to yourself.

Some people will love you for it.

Whenever I write an opinion piece, I inevitably get private messages from people. The messages always go something like, “I loved your article on XYZ. I appreciate what you’re doing for the community.”

The past couple of weeks have been rough on me. After lying out of work for nearly a week with the flu, I pulled a back muscle to begin the new week. My body and mind are still recovering from the sickness, and I’m struggling just to walk around.

I also struggled telling the truth of my experiences in a recent opinion piece. However, I done so to the best of my ability in the moment, and I cannot apologize for that. My message resonated with so many people who felt like they did not have a voice. At the end of the day, those people, their voices, matter to me. I have received more messages of gratitude for my writing in the past week than I ever had. At a time when I was feeling particularly vulnerable, it was encouraging to learn that I was able to represent their views on the world, at least in some small fashion. That they feel a little less alone and frustrated and scared means more to me than anything.

It is easy to shuffle along with the crowd when they tell you to do so. It is easy to give that first inch out of a desire to please others. And, it becomes easier to give another inch after that first. But, I can be a bit stubborn. This can be both an asset and flaw to my character. At times, that particular character trait must take over. It must help to cement me in place so that I do not provide that inch. When so many tell me what I know to be right in my heart is wrong, I must be like a tree with roots deeply planted in the ground. The wind may bend me. It may break a few branches and scatter my leaves, but I will not move. For I drink from the waters of truth and they strengthen me.