Discussion Questions for Gary Haugen: Joy is the Oxygen
1. Even before Kate begins her interview with founder and CEO of International Justice Mission Gary Haugen, she admits that this episode is not for everyone: it’s for the person who has the bandwidth to be brave and take on another’s pain. What is your bandwidth for bravery today?
2. Everything changed for Gary when he was sent to Rwanda in 1994 to quantify the carnage of genocide. Has unspeakable suffering ever galvanized you? What can you share about your “before” and “after” moment?
3. “The Locus Effect,” also the title of his book, is a metaphor Gary uses to describe the influence of violence on the world’s poor. They can be doing everything right to get out of poverty when violence eats up all their good efforts. Why do you think this aspect of the poor’s vulnerability is often overlooked?
4. Gary is a man of action. He quit his job at the Department of Justice on Friday and was working for the newly-conceived International Justice Mission on Monday. What stands out to you about the way IJM got its start? What strikes you about its early case-by-case approach to meeting human need? Is Gary just a bonafide superhero or does his work feel possible for you?
5. Pain, suffering, injustice—they always feels overwhelming in the abstract, Kate and Gary admit. What have you noticed about your overwhelm? How does it begin, what feels paralyzing, and what helps?
6. “There is just something super powerful, I think, for those of us who feel overwhelmed by the bad, harsh suffering in the world to actually just pick one target, pick one place to focus one’s compassion and love and see what happens,“ Gary says. If you were to take Gary’s advice and pick one target to “suffer with,” who would you choose?
7. We can’t care about everything but we can do something. It’s this paradox of justice that Kate and Gary agree is hard to hold in tension. What side of this false binary do you lean toward: the big system solutions or the individual connection solutions? How are you being called to stretch your thinking toward the other side of the spectrum?
8.“There are are a lot of religious platitudes about structural inequality,” Kate reflects, the social-media-friendly phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” being at the top of the list. Gary calls these clichéd phrases the eject button; they’re a quick way to stop thinking about someone else’s pain and volley responsibility to God. What’s a better response that honors both human dignity and divine power?
9. It’s hard to keep caring about someone else’s pain when we aren’t caring well for ourselves. Gary’s remedy for compassion fatigue is joy. “Joy,” he says, “is the oxygen for doing hard things in the world.” Do you have a regular discipline for recovering joy into your life? What’s your biggest joy infusion?
10. “People who are suffering and hurting in the world do not need our spasms of passion,” Gary says. “What they need is a long faithfulness in the same direction.” What’s one way you can commit to a long faithfulness today?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Gary’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.