“Misogynists!!! Women Haters!!! Law Breakers!!!”
It is not unusual to encounter protestors while participating in “Choice” Chain, but it is unusual to meet ones passionate enough to stick around and disrupt it for hours on end.
We’re all uncomfortable with having our beliefs challenged, especially when it is done unexpectedly. Many individuals who encounter “Choice” Chain haven’t really given too much thought as to whether abortion is beneficial for women or society. The pictures hit and overwhelm their defences; they stand in shock before the truth, and as the shock changes into anger, they experience something similar to cognitive dissonance (Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation[i]).
Their screams, insults, and jeers are code words for help
By verbalizing their anger, abortion advocates subconsciously desire to rid themselves of the pain associated with what they are seeing. Although it’s easy to act on instinct and instantly put up a wall between us and the verbal attacker, its important to remember that their hurtful words are coming from a place of pain. If they truly did not care about abortion, if these pictures really meant nothing, they would not be taking the time out of their day to verbalize their anger.
These pictures gnaw at the conscience. They trigger an emotional response because they depict a reality too shocking and repulsive for words to do it justice. There is no excuse or reason which could justify what these images depict and I believe that deep down inside, our attackers realize this. They experience inner turmoil: they’ve always been told that a woman has a right to choose, but now for the first time they must come face to face with what this particular choice represents.
We have no way of knowing what will happen in the hearts of those who oppose us once “Choice” Chain wraps up and signs are taken down for the day. This is why it is crucial to keep in mind that when we encounter an emotionally distraught protestor, the most important way of ministering to them is through kindness and love.
Rather than engaging in a battle of words and huffily pointing out just how wrong their assumptions are, take the higher road. Remember the words once spoken by Martin Luther King Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Accept their anger without encouraging it; sympathize with their fury without engaging it. Simply put, show humility and realize that sometimes underneath that snarling and seemingly ferocious exterior, there is a tormented soul experiencing the preliminary stages of conversion.
I’m not suggesting we don’t debate any angry person we come in contact with (that would quickly leave us opponent-less), what I am proposing is that we focus on each individual in the moment and minister to them in a way which they are emotionally and intellectually ready to handle. One day when doing “Choice” Chain in Calgary, a girl came up to me, tears streaming down her cheeks and screamed, “Do you have any idea how much this hurts to see? I had to have two abortions at seventeen; I just had to! I had no other choice. This is terrible because you’re making me re-live that pain.” I told her how sorry I was that she had been backed into a corner and left without a choice. She continued crying, but her body language changed dramatically and her hysterical anger turned into quiet sobbing. I gently offered her a Silent No More card and she agreed to take it and walked away still crying, but now the tears were ones of regret and not anger.
If someone is angry… but ready to debate, then by all means, whip out SLED and coast all the way down to pro-life town. But if the person you are encountering is hysterical and furious, resist the urge to counter attack and instead focus on ministering to them through love.
Who knows, your kindness and mercy may be what fills them with peace and sets them on the right path towards discovering the truth.