Well, I just experienced greatness. If you don’t know Brené Brown, get to know her. She’s a social worker (my favorite occupation) and she studies shame and vulnerability. She’s an author, researcher, a speaker, and she just released a talk on Netflix called The Call to Courage.
After hearing about the abortion laws that have been made this week I feel so happy that I found Mrs. Brown’s work. In Braving The Wilderness she explains how “we are screaming at each other from further and further away.” She explains that our behavior is really creating a giant divide rather than working together toward “shared power.” She quotes Bill Bishop’s work of how we have sorted ourselves into groups that are providing feedback loops of our own thoughts and beliefs rather than being open to new ideas and inspiration.
I fell into this trap yesterday as I was driving the kids to school. I was having a fake argument in my head with someone from “the other side.” I was explaining to him about women’s rights. I was demanding that he see my point. I was pleading for him to advocate for the weary, broken, traumatized women before us and not just their unborn babies. I was screaming about how he could possibly be in favor for restrictions regarding abortion and not for the most basic common sense gun laws. My hands were shaking. I snapped at the kids.
Then I felt a trigger for the first time in a long time. I felt like drinking. Gasp! I was completely overwhelmed and I didn’t want to have to think about this. I wanted to numb and retreat to the safety of those who agreed with me. I wanted to escape the reality of the world we live in and just check out. I wanted no part. I felt scared.
But the truth is we live in a world that tells us stories of scarcity and lack so that we will buy into fear. These stories come from large institutions, politics, and big business. It comes from decades and decades of conditioning and the fault doesn’t lie within one single group or one single person. It’s kind of our thing. We scare people by sending a message that there isn’t enough, that we aren’t enough, that nothing is enough.
But this time, I’m not buying it. In fact, I refuse. There is MORE than enough to go around. Everyone can have their rights. Everyone is entitled to safety. Everyone deserves opportunity. You, me, her, him, all of us.
So, instead of becoming angry and trying to prove my points from a place of fear I am going to open my heart and try compassion.
I am going to have compassion and empathy for the woman who had an abortion and who regrets it so terribly that she is now a strong advocate against abortion. She is scared.
I’ll have compassion for the woman who has tried and tried to get pregnant and who wants nothing more than motherhood and who could never understand why a woman who would choose abortion. She is scared.
I am going to have compassion and empathy for the woman who wishes to have an abortion because she lacks support, resources, funds, medical care, mental health care, and the basic needs that it requires to take care of herself, much less another human. And I am going to trust that she knows what’s best for her. She is scared.
I am going to have compassion and empathy for unruly 5 year old who is disrupting the entire kindergarten class with his aggression, fury, and anger due to the fact that he was born into a culture that wants us so badly to have our babies but fails to wrap our arms around new mothers to keep them safe, supported, and comforted. We forget to tell them that it was hard for us too. He is scared.
I am going to have compassion for the law maker who votes in ideas of scarcity and lack because he grew up in a place that made him feel threatened, that told him you will be damned to hell, that made him believe that there is only one way. Maybe he doesn’t know acceptance. He is scared.
I am going to have compassion for the people who are so far removed from what’s happening in our society due to their level of sickness, depression, anxiety, addiction, hunger, exhaustion, and stress. And, who are most likely to suffer from the laws that are being made. They are scared.
I’m going to have compassion for myself. I am going to understand that the reason I want to drink is because I am scared. I am scared that I haven’t done enough, or that my rights will be taken away, or that I am not worthy.
And then I will show up at the table. Instead of screaming and demanding I will listen. I will listen to those who don’t think like me and act like me and I will be brave enough to hear their words. I want to hold their hands and come together. I want to look into the eyes of my opponents and have authentic conversations about real live people that we can see and touch. I will stop using words like “issues” and “points” and I will lean in instead of running back to my safety net of nods.
I refuse to buy into the fear that we have to be the same in order for things to work. I refuse to let the overarching fear create distance between our ability to solve problems. I refuse to create more divide. Each of our unique experiences is what brings opportunity to the table. Our different perspectives, lifestyles, and belief systems are the exact thing that can bring a rich discussion of options that can work in favor of everyone. I’m not for some diversity but for all diversity. But it MUST be safe and respectful for us to work together.
If we can’t be vulnerable then we have no courage. And when we have no courage we don’t feel worthy. And when we don’t feel worthy we start to project or to protect things that aren’t necessarily true. We come from a place of fear, of scarcity, or of lack. We feel hysterical.
Then we drink too much, we overeat, we spend, we lie, we hate, we hide, we bury, and we isolate in an effort to overcome that fear. And if we don’t feel worthy ourselves-then there’s no change we think you’re worthy. So, we fall into the trap and believe the lies. We believe there’s not enough for everyone.
I won’t drink, I know that for sure. So I am left with only one option-I must show up. I must choose to stay with the uncertainty, the fear, the anger, and the stress and turn it into bravery and trust. I must remain out in the open and not behind the comfort of the known. I will be wrong, judged, and definitely misunderstood but this time I stay. There’s no checking out, no escape, no running away, no numbing.
Brene Brown shaped much of her career around this speech given by Teddy Roosevelt.
Get in the arena.