Giving Up the Hustle of Protecting the Institution

I’ve been a part of a lot of systems: being a student for thirteen years, studying at university, and teaching in the public school system. Systems and institutions develop characteristics of their own over time. It’s why so many entrepreneurs study and analyze culture and how it develops. They want to develop a different kind of system for their company because they have started their own business to get out of systems and institutions that didn’t value their ideas, their innovations, and their insight.

But the thing about systems is that no matter how much you believe in the cause when you get to a certain size, systems and institutions protect themselves over and beyond everything else. They have to in order to survive.

You know a system becomes an institution when this protection mode kicks in. You’ll start to hear things like, “Thank you for that idea, we need to get a stable foundation and then we’ll consider it,” or “We are in an uncertain financial situation right now, so we just need everyone to keep working on what they are working on before we consider expanding or changing anything.” If you are an innovator or a challenger or someone who has foresight, you’ll start to hear things like, “Can I talk to you after about that?” or “We’ve heard enough from you right now, let’s give someone else a turn,” or “We’ve made vast improvements to including different voices. Let’s talk about all we have accomplished rather than what we haven’t.” All different ways of saying the same thing: We’re going to protect the institution.

Institutions have insiders and outsiders. The insiders are the ones calling the shots. The ones who have committed to protecting and defending the institution no matter what. This is where things get dangerous. This is where abuse, racism, and sexism become complaints that have to be handled “internally” so that the institution is still intact.

I’m giving up the hustle of protecting the institution.

In every instance that I have been asked to defend and protect institutions explicitly or through positioning like, “If you just lay low for a couple of years, this position will open up and then you could really make a difference and change things,” I have tried. I have tried to tow the party line. I have tried to stay quiet and put my head down. And I have been able to do it for a little while.

Then inevitably, I have heard the story of someone who the institution trampled. Someone who is questioning their calling and their identity because of the wound the institution has issued, I have heard stories of people who are doubting and questioning whether they are the beloved child of God because the institution has oppressed and silenced them.

And then I have to make a choice. Do I protect and defend the institution or do I protect and defend the beloved child of God?

I’m giving up the hustle of protecting the institution.

Instead, I find myself walking side by side with individuals explaining to them that it wasn’t them. It was the institution that always favors the insiders and tramples the outsiders. And we walk together looking and seeking to find others who have been trampled, silenced, and oppressed. And we keep finding people and we walk on.