There is this sneaking thing in social change work. We are all working so hard and so diligently that we sometimes feel as if we alone know the answer to what is right. Or, that we alone can call out the connections between things. And that leads us to undercut one of our colleagues or workshop participants when they make a mistake. It might be with indifference or it might be with glee, but it seems as if calling folks out is the way we prove that we have the inside track into what is right.
I have to be honest, I have never responded well to someone that intentionally cuts me down. So, it doesn’t surprise me when a person becomes resistant after being called out. Also, I want to underline that if it is done in the spirit of one upsmanship, it is a reinforcement of the very culture which we are seeking to change, that culture of expert and hierarchy which we all find so stomach turning.
It leads me to wonder if we might be able to support focused reflection from a place of love, rather than a place of shame?
In some of my trainings, I work with participants to reflect on the ways they play a part in systemic oppression. We ask a number of open ended questions to allow an unfolding, much the way you would move in slowly to your hamstrings if you were stretching in a forward fold. The gradual building of questions gives folks the opportunities to see where they have supported structures and systems that maintain oppression. Then we are able to do the work of interrupting it.
My intent is to support an honest exploration of ones habits and attachments to the status quo. The awakening to the complexities of race and oppression are painful and discombobulating on their own without needing to inflame shame and guilt. Though those feelings arise anyway. I wonder if we attended to the process of reflection rather than using the guilt and shame as leverage if we might get further.
Are there strategies that you can use to invite deeper reflection, conversation and action in a loving way?