I think I have a serious problem.  Has it really taken me 25 years to figure this out?

I crave – no, I NEED – to be affirmed.  Whenever someone tells me I’m wrong about something, it rattles me to the very core.  I fall apart and then scramble to prove my worth again.  I can’t do anything until I feel like the right people have told me that I’m right again.  I need their approval.  I need people to reassure me that I’m right.

I’m not always right.

These past few days have been a stressful lesson in letting go when I can’t get the affirmation I’m seeking.

As you know, I have that tumblr blog about human trafficking (you can find a link to it along the right-hand margin).  I spend hours updating this blog every day.  I read a minimum of 20 articles daily about human trafficking.  I watch videos, I view photos, I listen to podcasts, and I post about the best of them on the blog.  Hours of educating myself and sharing what I learn, almost every day.  (I’m not looking for praise, simply providing evidence that I know a lot about the subject).

Last weekend, someone responded to one of the articles I posted about in a way that I felt totally missed the point – the point being that there are sex slaves in the sex industry, and that the industry needs to find a way to make sure that the prostitues who are working are the ONLY ones working (i.e., NO SEX SLAVES).  After I read what she and another person wrote (they were extremely emotional-based arguments, and I can rely on my logic, philosophy, and political science background to say with all the confidence in the world that their arguments were terrible, including misleading quotes and complete ignorance/apathy/denial on the issue of sex slavery in the industry), I wrote a response (you’ll see the original article, followed by their two responses, and then my response to them at the bottom) and reposted the article, basically saying that the article wasn’t talking about sex workers who choose to work as sex workers, but about the issue of sex slavery/forced prostitution and society’s need to resolve the issue.

I won’t even go into how the conversation deteriorated after that, because instead of responding to any of the points I made, I was told that unless I was a sex worker, my opinions (or any academic, research-based knowledge) on the sex industry are null and void.  When I asked if she would at least acknowledge sex trafficking as a real issue, she again went back to me not being in the industry, so anything I had to say was invalid (this is much kinder than how she wrote to me).  Anyway, I decided I’d write back one more time, and wouldn’t bother with it again.  I told her I’d be more than glad to hear her side of what life is like as a sex worker (I’d acknowledged from the beginning that all women deserve respect, and don’t discriminate between a prostitute or a pastor), but that the issue of sex slavery in the sex industry wasn’t going to go away by ignoring it.

In a nutshell.

After that, I found a few articles and quotations from former sex-slaves.  Now survivors, they are sharing their stories and telling people what forced prostitution was like.  In the U.S. (as in many places), it is common that those forced into prostitute are underage.  I hoped that if the woman I had been arguing with ever ventured onto my blog again, she’d see that I’m not making this up – people who have lived it can vouch for it, and they are working with the abolitionist movement to find solutions.

However, in my attempt to share first-hand accounts of forced prostitution, another of my followers asked me to stop posting about underage prostitution.  Because it was upsetting and she didn’t want to see it.

I can’t win, right?

Sometimes old verses come back to me, and they still give me comfort.  Although I’m not necessarily classifying my work in awareness with the abolitionist movement a “misisonary calling,” I do believe that justice is what God wants in this world.  Justice is setting slaves free.  It’s giving people what they deserve.  The things you do for the least of these, and being persecuted on account of doing the right thing.  I try to avoid putting myself under these verses, because I really do suck at being good.  But I know what is wrong (slavery) and I know that abolition is right.  And I know that sometimes doing what is right can be hard – it was in elementary school and it still is today.

One of my most favorite quotes is by William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist.  He said:

“I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice… I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.”

I’ve spent my life avoiding conflict because it is the opposite of affirmation.  I just want people to tell me I’m right, but arguing is essentially putting yourself in front of someone who thinks you are wrong.  When it comes to bringing awareness and action to change the way this world uses and abuses humans for their own personal comfort and profit, I will be as harsh as truth, and uncompromising as justice.  I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.