“I believe in a new brand of advocacy where we humble ourselves to our shortcomings and engage in acts of graceful revolution that bring light to the true reality of people’s lives. I believe that if we engage people in their own spaces, teach them to look at injustices as moments that touch all of us, if we give people the knowledge of the power structure, if we give them the tools to infiltrate its membrane, then change will take place in America. This is the Graceful Revolution.”
~Dr. Melissa Bird
I recently came across this quote, and it resonated with me on multiple levels. I posted it on social media, and the first response was one that I myself might have stated not long ago. The response surmised that while the concept was beautiful, it was unrealistic because some people care and some are self-centered. I must have been mulling this over in my dreams, because I woke up at 2:40-something A.M. and wrote the following.
We view the world through the lens of our own experience; Our baser selves approach the world through the lens of our woundedness, while our mindful selves approach the world through our understanding that we are all wounded in some way, and that grace allows us to see this and act from compassion. As we grow, we move from a lack of awareness of our own motives, and even behaviors, to awareness of these, then to mindfulness where our awareness and thoughts and behavior begin to align. This is a dynamic process, neither linear nor static. Our wounds often allow us to see certain things, such as unfairness or injustice while blinding us to how we perpetuate these in other areas of our own lives and/or the world around us. Sometimes our wounds allow us to be extremely mindful of our thought process but unaware of our actions or behaviors until we see them in retrospect. Sometimes our wounds allow us to be mindful of our intentions but twist them into justifications for our actions based on the injustices we perceive or experience in our own lives. Often, both of these occur in the same person, at the same time.
My response to my friend is that how we show up and present ourselves based on our intentions is what matters. People whom we judge to not give a shit others are just as, if not more, wounded than we may have been. Does that mean we bend over and allow them to behave selfishly or abusively? Or that we abuse them? Absolutely not. We match their lack of boundaries with the strength of our own convictions. We do what we need to do to make our voices heard. We let them know that we both see their pain and that their behavior is unacceptable. The difference is in how we view and consequently approach the world; whether we approach it from a binary perspective or we approach it from a multi-dimensional perspective, our intent is connected to whichever perspective we are operating from, and when they are aligned through our own self-inquiry, then we can approach that person or group from a different space where the power dynamics shift from an external structure to an internal source. That’s how people like Gandhi or Dr. King or Utah Phillips or Maya Angelou or Brene Brown have approached people and instigated change.
Like any healing process, change is gradual and requires that we continually exercise our awareness of our own thoughts, perceptions, motives, behaviors, and ideals to bring the rough edges together into alignment. When we first recognize injustice in some area of our lives, we often feel angry, which stems from a place of fear, frustration and hurt. Our powerlessness builds its own momentum and is expressed in various ways as we attempt to change things around and within ourselves. When we encounter people who seem to only be concerned with themselves, we hyperfocus on the destructiveness of their actions and project a variety of negative human qualities onto their character to justify our righteousness. Often, we see these qualities through the lens of our wounds and attribute the behaviors of our past perpetrators on to our present perpetrators. We view them from a binary perspective in which we are right and they are wrong, period. As we grow in our own personal awareness, we begin to see that our own faults are not so different from those whom we judge. We often judge ourselves as harshly as we feel we have been judged by others, or as harshly as we judge those who have hurt us.
As we continue to uncover our own wounds while examining our own thoughts and behaviors, we begin to find compassion for those who have traveled similar roads as us. However, we still find it nearly impossible to find compassion for those who have grievously harmed and traumatized us. When we get to a place where we feel comfortable with ourselves in our lives, we feel resolved and often begin to develop a complacency. Wherever we are in our own growth is reflected in how we view the world. We begin to see the world through a combination of our wounds (through a binary lens), and our healing experience (through a multi-dimensional lens). We exist in this space until we experience deeper levels of woundedness that need to be healed or conflict between our ability to view the world through a balanced lens of binary and multi-dimensional perception. Then we start the process all over again.
If we can see this process in ourselves, and intentionally apply it to those sources of injustice in our lives or the lives in our clients, then we can operate from a space of grace in advocacy. When we come across those who will not hear us for any reason, we stay grounded in this space to hold to our boundaries and work to change the power structure so that new opportunities arise. Because we are human, our impatience often frustrates us when we don’t see results or change right away. We then have to look at how long our own personal growth process has been, and use that understanding to help us practice patience in the process.
Today, we are on a political precipice, where the decisions of voters will reflect either the continued downfall of our political system and social progress or prove the social experiment that we call democracy and swing us from impending doom back to a place of perceived homeostasis. Whatever happens, the opportunity for social change will remain the same as it ever was… only the depths to which we collectively see the starting point for that change will shift. Regardless of the outcome, hard work lies ahead. Our participation in holding our new representatives accountable will determine the strength of the boundaries that we are setting today and the depth of the new starting point from which we will work.
Whether we are advocating for personal or social change, that change begins with a shift in our perception and our decision to act from grace or to act from ignorance.