I’ve benefitted greatly from Brené Brown’s work including her previous books; Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong (and now Dare to Lead) as well as her TED Talks. Her ideas and concepts have been helpful in my presentations, my coaching with clients, and in my own life in relationship with others and myself.
On Sunday she spoke about how as individuals and communities today we are sorted (into communities with others who are like us), lonely, and afraid (of those who are not like us).
In the absence of love and belonging, there is always suffering. Always.
She calls this a spiritual crisis of disconnection.
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and one another is grounded in love and compassion.
She calls for us to move toward true belonging.
True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.
True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.
She offered four practices for doing so, which also are outlined on the back of her book.
- People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.
- Speak truth to BS. Be civil.
- Hold hands. With strangers.
- Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
She shared this quote to talk about how tempting it can be to distance and dehumanize others who are different from us. You might think of your uncle’s homophobic comments at Thanksgiving, white supremacists in Charlottesville, or the roots of genocide around the globe and across history.
This dehumanization is there for sure. But I was also wondering about how those of us who aspire to work to reduce violence and the roots in oppressive systems, also use dehumanizing language and approaches in the name of social justice.
bell hooks reminds us that these are tools of oppression. It can certainly be palpably tempting to dehumanize those who have dehumanized you or those you love and care about. It can even feel good. Being self-righteous and scoring points or kudos from others who share our thinking can be affirming and validating. But it rarely is effective in bringing about the kind of change and transformation we seeking to bring about in individuals, communities, institutions, and societal systems.
Brené Brown quickly and rightly pointed out that the burden shouldn’t fall to the traumatized to invite the traumatizers to the table. Others of us can do that, especially those with systemic privilege. The kind of connection that makes change and transformation possible isn’t always possible, especially when someone’s physically safety is at risk.
Sometimes the goal is not learning and transformation but simply interrupting and stopping harm.
This calls for different strategies. And other times efforts at creating change and transformation can’t continue because one side continues to dehumanize the other side. In these cases we can prioritize our own self-care and healing by choosing battles and focusing our energy where change may be possible.