It was a heartening experience Saturday to be a part of the Women’s March in Toronto…especially knowing that about 3 million others around the world marched that day in the name of equality, compassion, and the future of the planet. AND apparently not one arrest was made among these millions!
As a longtime activist, it’s wonderful to see so many people (and so many new folks!) vocally and peacefully engaging in a social movement. I’m hoping this will be the tipping point towards a level of citizen engagement we’ve never seen before in which we consistently mobilize for what we value.
I’d like to suggest, though, as we continue speaking out for what is important to us, that the goal of bridge-building remain deep in our hearts.
I believe it’s this energy of connection that has the most potential to heal this aching world.
There’s an urge on all sides right now to throw off the gloves and right out BRAWL. Even though that can feel really, really good in the moment, this will ultimately only lead to further pain and isolation for everybody down the road.
Personally, I’m very familiar with the feeling of wanting to just shut somebody DOWN when they’re blithely spouting dangerous misinformation or acting morally superior in their intolerance. I’m also well acquainted with the seductiveness of righteous indignation. I’ve seen it rear up like The Incredible Hulk when my old wounds of powerlessness or “not good enough” are triggered and I’m scrambling to deflect them.
Luckily, I’ve also had the experience of moving beyond the temptation to righteous indignation over being loving. I’ve seen how when someone with a differing opinion senses an intention of true connection in my communication, their walls tend to go down and their minds and hearts open. This is where the magic happens.
So, in my efforts to be a better bridge-builder, here’s a little list of questions I’ve developed over the years to ask myself before taking part in righteous indignation…
1. Does what I’m saying have anything to do with making the other party feel inferior or making myself feel superior in some way?
2. Have I tried to put myself in the other party’s shoes so I can deal with them from a place of understanding and compassion? (Remember: everybody’s doing the best they can from their life experience)
3. Is this coming from the reactive wounded child in me or my most expansive, loving, and wise self? (If it’s coming from the wounded child, stop and ask yourself: ‘What’s your pain, Dear One? What do you need from me right now?’ And then tend to that before you speak out.)
4. Does what I’m saying have a shaming energy to it?
5. Does this invite dialogue or does it aim to shut things down?
6. Have I done due diligence in exploring the other party’s side? (For a great exercise in doing this, check out Elizabeth Lesser’s Ted Talk “Take ‘the Other’ to Lunch”)
7. Am I drawing lines or am I looking for the common factor?
If I feel satisfied with the answers, then I am ready to speak out.
Btw, all this is NOT to say we shouldn’t speak out strongly and often for fear of rocking the boat. On the contrary…I think it’s important for all of us to get our boats rocked regularly avoid righteous indignation!
However, just try to remember that having one’s boat rocked is a painful process and be prepared that even if your righteous indignation includes sharing important truths with a deep intention of love and connection, people are still going to get pissed at you.
Your job at that point is to do your best not to take it personally, stay grounded in love, and soldier on.
Center. Love, Mobilize, Dearest!
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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
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“Love your enemies. It makes them so damned mad.” – P.D. East