INFJs and the Clash of “Stay Home Save Lives” and “Protest to Save Lives”

Should you stay or should you go?

an INFJ, your conscientiousness might be paralyzing you at this historical moment. Protecting people from coronavirus and stopping systemic racism are two urgent public health problems with two seemingly opposing responsibilities.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

For months, we’ve been told that the only thing we can do to stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) is to stay home. But then, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd tipped the long-brewing issue of police brutality against black people into an uprising of worldwide support for the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement has sparked the feeling that the only thing we can do to stop the spread of further police brutality is to go out and join the protests. Stay home or go out?

How do we navigate these competing messages? And is it a false dichotomy? The INFJ Meyers-Briggs personality type seeks to understand the interpersonal and societal impact of our actions so we can make ethical judgments and act based on that. However, this “stay home”/“go out” clash calls for us to use our weaker mental muscles: perceiving individual needs and allowing for nuance.

his is a situation in which blanket statements can be made about stances, but that doesn’t mean you have to accompany it with a blanket statement about what every single individual must therefore do. Making this separation is crucial for INFJs right now. In other words, it is possible to stand by the blanket statement “Black Lives Matter” or “Police brutality must be stopped” or “People deserve to not be exposed to coronavirus” without accompanying it with blanket statements that everyone should be in the streets protesting or that no one should be at mass gatherings.

There are justifiable reasons for doing both, although honestly, no one needs to justify their fight against oppression or for survival.

Recognizing and respecting people’s personal reasons for protesting or for staying home doesn’t undermine your stance or ethics. So, this isn’t a call to do one certain action. This isn’t a shaming. This isn’t a claim that there is one right way. This is a suggestion for conflicted INFJs to reframe their thinking:

Make space for nuance rather than rigid right and wrong. Again, you can maintain a strong ethical stance of caring for people and being against oppression while simultaneously letting go of the need to find one “right” way everyone should be acting. What is “right” for a caretaker and what is “right” for a protester might be different — and neither has to be “wrong” for both to be right.

Use the lens of bodily harm versus bodily help. If you get too stuck in INFJ theorizing or researching, come back to the question of how your personal actions will affect the bodily well-being of another. This also helps to clarify what’s in your sphere of control and can inspire ideas of how you can physically support, nourish, shelter, or free another’s body.

Come back to your body. Because INFJs have sensory perception as an inferior function, we are easily disconnected from our physical bodies. Return to your body and name what your body feels. This can help you tap into your intuition which can lend insight into what choices you personally should make.

Check your intentions. Ask yourself whether you are doing something to alleviate your own guilt, especially if you are in a position of privilege. Seeking to soothe your own discomfort can masquerade as a moral compass.

Question the use of guilt. If you don’t go to protests, who are you helping by feeling guilty? If you want to be helpful, there are plenty of actions you can take from home. Look for tips from Black Lives Matter organizers. Donate, sign, discuss, support, change policy, listen. On the other hand, if you want to go out but feel guilty about possibly transmitting coronavirus, learn how to protest while staying safe(r) — from both coronavirus and the police.

Consider humility. Resist the temptation to be self-righteous, especially if you’re white and you’re speaking about these two public health issues that disproportionately affect black communities. Even if you think you’re on the side of right, using that to boost your ego should not be the focus here.

Resist the urge to rush to judgment. A person’s choice to stay in or protest involves so many factors. Depending where one lives, coronavirus cases might be spiking or falling. Protests might be socially distanced or a hellscape of tear gas. Each individual must decide whether their particular presence helps more by being in the streets or removed from the public during this pandemic.

Recognize that this may be a false dichotomy. Yes, “stay home” and “go out” are opposing messages, but there is more than one way to help your community through the pandemic, and more than one way to abolish oppressive institutions and recreate public health and safety. For ideas on this, go listen to Black Lives Matter organizers.

Self-help through a sociological lens. Creative Writing MFA. Sociology + Gender Studies B.S. ●Nuance isn’t dead● chelseykburden@gmail.com

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