I was thinking about what to write about courage and fear in the wake of terrible tragedies–mass shootings, terrorist attacks, the collective wound of institutionalized racism breaking open. I was thinking about courage in a world that has seemingly gone mad. How do we practice that?
And then, as I was still collecting my thoughts, ANOTHER thing happened.
It seems almost impossible to imagine, in so many ways. (That’s my/our privilege showing itself, by the way–the shock with which we experience this violence, when so many other people in the world must accept living with violence as a daily reality).
* * *
This was an entirely different post, when I first wrote it. It was more hopeful.
More weeks passed. More attacks. More senseless violence. More institutionalized systems showing their dysfunction.
I have found myself taking care not to run from my sadness.
I’ve been trying to feel it, without wallowing in it, because the people who are the victims and survivors of violence need those of us with more power, access, and privilege to DO something.
I talk on YourCourageousLife.com about starting a “revolution from within.” I use that phrase because I believe that it’s when we have the courage to look at our own stuff, our own wounds, our own denial of the problem, our own limiting self-beliefs, and the rest, that we can create true change. It starts from within.
The revolution of deciding that you’re not going to live a fear-based life, anymore, starts with you and ripples outward. You can’t be of service to others, when you haven’t investigated your own stuff. Whether we’re talking about white privilege or LGBTQ discrimination or gun legislation, or we’re talking about feeling overwhelmed and full of doubt when you try to go after a big dream, the stakes are the same.
You won’t change anything for the good, if you don’t start with yourself.
* * *
Here is what I want to say, about practicing courage in a world that has seemingly gone mad:
It is my commitment to remember that most of the time, most people have nothing but fundamentally good intentions. I need to remember that, as part of the psychological work of not being pulled into the undertow of grief that comes along with violence, which would then render me incapable of being part of the solution.
Most of us, most of the time, are getting up in the morning thinking about how to create better lives for ourselves or for the people we love.
Most of us, most of the time, are arriving on time(ish) to our jobs, and being of service. That person who got your coffee, this morning? The teachers who are with your kids, right now? The multiple tiers of people responsible for ensuring that internet service is up and running so that you can read this post?
–Yeah, those are the people you live among, most of the time.
Most of the time, most people are not awful people. I will not buy in to the idea that most people are more interested in hate and fear, than they are in love.
* * *
I want to add this: waking up is painful.
Waking up to how you’ve been complicit in the problem, unknowingly? Painful.
Waking up to how little control you have? Painful.
Waking up to how much someone else is suffering as a result of your behavior? Painful.
Waking up to how much someone else is suffering because you chose not to acknowledge their suffering? Painful.
Waiting to wake up, makes the waking up even more painful.
So if you want to change things, one way to practice courage in a world that has seemingly gone mad might be this: don’t wait until the last possible minute, before you decide to change.
Don’t wait until it gets as bad as it can possibly get, before you’ll finally take action–whether in your own life, or on behalf of someone else.
I will keep breathing with my grief.
I will keep on keeping myself informed.
I will keep speaking up so that my silence isn’t interpreted as agreement with violence.