I find it interesting that the people who help those striving for social justice fall under the microscope themselves. It’s as if by assisting the change they become the problem. This attention on the facilitators is misplaced. We look at the surface of the issue without asking why and seeking the root cause. One of the potential causes is lack of perspective and attention directed to the larger long-term picture. Facilitators become reprimanded for helping instead of recognized for attempting to provide the foundation for change. It’s no wonder that the number of people willing to help others is diminishing.
The issue we all face is identity politics individually and as groups. When we identify with one or the other side of the argument, we miss the point of creating conditions for common understanding and positive change. We get lost in our win-lose mindset instead of recognizing there are win-win scenarios achievable via negotiation. We react to “others” instead of being proactive using our time, energy, and attention to understand where they are coming from in their speech and actions. We focus on the how the other are presenting in lieu of the what they are trying to accomplish let alone trying to understand the why behind their energy. Seeking to understand the why creates and supports the change we are all ultimately interested in.
Seeking the why behind other’s speech and actions takes shifting our attention, spending energy, and taking time within our interactions to gain perspective. It’s much easier to stay in our information bubble and not make ourselves vulnerable with sharing during our interactions. We nurture our anger and affect which is then preyed upon by those with influence over our information we consume. Our information bubbles protect us from the “other” while reinforcing the zero-sum game of winning or losing. If we can only direct our attention beyond ourselves and our bubbles towards the strategic long term perspective, we could foster, facilitate, and steward the future we truly want. Our anger and upset increases the fragility of our egos which then become injured at the smallest infractions and lose the name of action. More specifically, we lose the ability to connect with others. When we give our egos free rein, we undermine our capacity for useful dialogue and the building of our trust accounts. We allow the personal to cloud our judgement and affect our actions thereby diminishing our chances of creating stronger connections and lasting change. Our short-sidedness is our undoing.
So the next time we try to help others in their progressive causes, take time to reflect on whether those we are helping have a long-range strategic perspective. While we may align in our actions and thoughts, we may not be aligned in the whys driving our activities. Herein lies our greatest tragedy. When members within a group have different whys, the group limits its own effectiveness and ability to drive lasting change. This is true of small teams or large factions as well as the different values within ourselves. Not working through our internal conflicts prevents improvement. Internal conflict undermines progress.
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