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How Agitators Help

February, 2017

Love from Nature    Photo by Sarah Stanley

What happens when you put on a shirt, blouse or dress that has a tag sewn into the neck of the garment? Doesn’t it irritate you? Perhaps it is just a minor annoyance that you can tolerate. But what if it is so distracting that you must do something about it? Your most obvious options are to take that piece of clothing off and wear something else, or figure out how to get the irksome tag removed without damaging the garment. Either way, the neckline tag has served as an agitator that compelled you to take action. Are you inclined to curse that agitator? This would be understandable but perhaps there’s a blessing in the curse. Perhaps the nudges we get, be they from clothing tags or individuals, provide an unexpected opportunity for joy. In this mundane example, a blouse that can still be worn once the tag has been removed could bring joy to the person wearing it. However, it could be harder to recognize the potential for joy when the agitator is a person.

If you have not seen the movie, Fences, I heartily recommend it. This two-hour drama set in the 1950’s is based on August Wilson’s play by the same name. The story focuses on a working-class African-American family in Pittsburgh, PA. The patriarch is Troy, played by actor and film director Denzel Washington. Without giving too much of the plot and story away, I will say that at times I just adored Troy. At other times, I disliked how he behaved towards his family members. In the days after I saw the movie, I kept thinking about Troy and realized what I both liked and didn’t like about him was that he was an Agitator. Troy’s agitation stirred others to react, rebel, protest and mobilize. Response to Troy was not always pretty but wow, things happened. Troy aroused a reaction in others and sometimes, that reaction brought joy to their lives.

I bet each of us could name a few people who were or are agitators in our lives. I suppose there are many shades of agitators. Benevolent types would be on one end of the spectrum and malignant ones on the other end. I’ll be honest: some of my agitators have pissed me off royally. They have offended me and have made me want to kick and scream in protest. In most cases, there was a response that boiled down to “I’ll show him” or “I’ll prove her wrong.” At that point, my agitator/tyrant was just like the tag in a piece of clothing: s/he got me to do something I might not have done otherwise. And sometimes, my agitated response brought me more joy. This is not necessarily a “love your Agitator” campaign but simply an invitation to reflect on what good has come your way thanks to a nudge from an agitator. We do need them.


Response to an Agitator

An agitator can deliver the message gently or with great fervor. If the agitator’s nudges cross over a threshold (which varies depending on the person), the words or judgments might be shaming or abusive. It’s important to know what your threshold is, and defend it. This might require a sentence like, “Please, you must stop talking to me like that.” In some cases, you might have to remove yourself from the interaction. It is important to exercise your right to this option. And by the way, this response might also be a path to more joy that was, in fact, stirred by an agitator!


If You Are an Agitator

No doubt, you provide an excellent “service” to those you agitate. You don’t necessarily need to stop. Do ask yourself how you deliver your message. Are you harsh, judgmental or imperious? Are you a tyrant who can’t muster heart, compassion or empathy for your recipient’s circumstances? Are you asking a square peg to fit into a round hole? Is that fair? In a perfect world, your agitation would encourage and convey “I believe in you,” without implying “you’re an idiot,” or “you’re doing it all wrong.” May this month’s Limb be an agitator to you, too: keep practicing those lines. It is an important script.

Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.


Prompts for Joy

This month’s Prompts for Joy are offered as an escape from the strife in our world right now. Nature is such a source of solace and joy; may these videos inspire you to get out there and find some pockets of peace.

Click here for a love story that involves a dog and a deer. And a cameo from a cat. (Great one, Claudette Bergman!)

Click here to dive into the deep seas of Fiji and Tonga. (Thanks for this great escape, Roberta Gelt.)

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above

Nature sent us some love. Many thanks to Sarah Stanley for contributing this photo.

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