[You may have been following the series of Musings that started with the one called “Please Stop”, and its follow up … It’s More Than Just the Words. Last Musing I was Exploring Safety …..This is another in that series.]
One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve been exploring in my life, and in this series of Musings, is the crucial nature of the ‘H’ in the acronym RICH – honouring our humanity. I’ve come to see these RICH qualities as the deeply underlying wisdom principles of healthy, loving, relationships – with ourselves, with each other, and with all of life.
Respect, appropriate levels of Intimacy, Courage, and Honouring our Humanity are things most of us long to experience, and (almost certainly if you’re reading this) attempt to embody. And (as long as we’re in touch with our own humanity) the absence of these understandably cause us to contract, and at times recoil in horror. That sense of “how could you?!” or “how can this be?!”
Things in our world touched on this deep pain in me a couple times this week. The first one was when I read Simcha Fisher’s piece “Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, when do girls matter?”. She’s taken the opportunity that’s been front and center in the news and social media, to step away from partisan politics and explore a question that impacts every one of us in our world. I hope you’ll take a look at it.
|In a completely different setting, the man in this striking image is speaking the truth of a human need that many of us often feel, and yet may not risk asking or standing for in the courageous way he is …
In it she says, “Think. Think about what you’re implying when you are willing to waive away accusations of attempted rape. Think about what you’re telling girls about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling boys about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling victims about what they’re worth. Think about how you’re talking about these things. Think about who is listening.”
And a couple days later, another article posted by a Facebook friend stunned me. In this one, a judge in Ontario, Canada, made a ruling last month that cleared the way for people accused of sexual assault in Ontario to once again use excessive intoxication as a defence against criminal charges. The judge found that a federal law preventing such an argument is unconstitutional.
In both these situations, in my humanity, so many feelings that wooshed up inside me. There were parts of me that felt sad and horrified – “What?! How could this be? What are we teaching the next generation by the way we’re holding all this?” … angry – “This is both disrespectful and wrong!” … scared – “How much more emboldened in their attempts to dishonour girls and women, will this invite in boys and men who feel the need to exert power over others to bolster their own sense of self?” … and initially even a sense of hopelessness – “How will we ever make a difference when those in power (who we expect to protect those who are less powerful) act and rule in this way?”
In taking time to attend to these really understandable human reactions, I remembered a couple things. First, that these painful feelings were there for a reason. My sadness and horror were pointing me to a deeper longing for what was missing. My anger was making it clear that I wanted and needed something different. My fear was reminding me of my commitment to doing my part in creating safety in our world – for myself and others. All of these strong feelings were signposts and invitations for me to anchor even more deeply and courageously into my commitment to stand for and live out of the principles of RICH Relationships.
Nothing had changed in the outer world. What was different was the way I was being with myself in all that I was feeling. I’m clear not everyone is called to act in the same way I am! We each have our own unique way of expressing who we came here to be. My work in this world is to partner with those who feel resonance with this way of being.
The second thing I remembered was hearing Isabel Wilkerson say in an interview “… laws are necessary, but they’re not sufficient, … laws can be changed if the hearts have not changed. And so I view myself as on kind of a mission to change the country, the world, one heart at a time. And it’s a tough thing to do. I feel as if the heart is the last frontier because we have tried so many other things.”
I looked back at that interview as I was preparing to write this Musing, and I loved these other words Isabel Wilkerson said “It’s looking into the human heart and examining it and allowing ourselves to feel the pain of others. You don’t want to feel your own pain. Why would you want to feel someone else’s pain? So I think it’s an act of love and an act of faith to allow yourself to feel the pain of another.”
It was crucial that I take the time to feel and soothe those parts of me that were upset and in pain. To the extent that we step over, or minimize that, we’ll be limited in my capacity to honour the humanity of another.
Truth is we are ALL fallible, imperfect human beings.
We’re works in progress, AND we’re worthy of love.
For some of us, this is an easy thing to forget – even about ourselves.
The deep truth that I hold for every one of us, even though it’s sometimes excruciatingly challenging to enact … especially those situations in which we’re called to wonder and discern “What does fierce loving look like here?!”
In a conversation with a client this week, they were feeling challenged in their relationship with their spouse. They were juggling a lot in their life, and as we explored they noticed the parts of themself that even with the additional stressors were feeling the need to be perfect, and going on to judge themself because they weren’t.
We talked about the challenge when we’re creating new patterns – the way it was like when we’re learning to ride a bike. We DON’T do it perfectly the first time we try, and even expert riders are at risk of crashing under challenging conditions. And crashing can hurt – both ourselves and others who may be around.
If we’re feeling tender ourselves, and others impacted (hurt) by our less than skillful actions are reactive and blame us, it’s easy to make ourselves wrong and shame ourselves. We often tell ourselves we shouldn’t have done what we did. And that can make us afraid to risk.
When we’re the receiver of the hurt, we (understandably) contract with the shock of the hurt. It’s so easy to feel (and sometimes say) “Why can’t you just _____?” or “Why do you always _____?”, or “You never _____!”
Whether we’re the hurt-er, or the hurt-ee it’s often hard to remember that it’s the next step we take that really makes a difference in our individual lives, and in the relationship between us.
Creating a space where we can feel safe, and catch our breath (reaching out for help if necessary) can give us some time to consider a big, important nuance.
Hurting others (while it may point to an absence of attention)
doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of love.
It’s important to be curious about what’s going on in the inner reality of the other one. BUT – that’s not the optimal first step either!
Whatever the source of our hurt, once our immediate safety has been attended to, whether our impulse is to lash out at, or focus our attention on rescuing the hurt-ers hurt feelings, it’s our own hurt that needs our attention first. To not do that is the equivalent of focusing on the other while, we’re bleeding out ourselves. And that’s certainly not honouring of our humanity.
Finally, I want to share the gift from another client conversation this week. There are times when the questions and challenges we face in our individual lives are so complex and seemingly unrelenting, that they’re very unsettling. I’m thankful for their willingness to let me share their words with you – not to scare you, but to reassure you (in the event you ever find yourself in this kind of space) that you’re not crazy, or broken, but that you’re human, and worthy of love and honour.
They said, “I have such urges to be scared, to fix it and figure it out … it’s learning to live with the knot, and finding some sort of relaxing within that, when so much wants to go back at it and try to straighten it out … and so I live with the frantic feeling (OMG, I can’t figure it out, I can’t unknot it!) I’m becoming aware that I need help, and asking for it, and all the while practicing breathing inside the knot … and that’s where I’m at yesterday, last night, and in this moment … I think I’m pretty clear … I’m so not used to waiting and trusting … it’s a scary thing to wait and trust …”
Though, here again, nothing had changed in their external experience, I was grateful to hear from them later “there sure has been a definite shift – a big one, and I got through it with your help”. I so honour their courage and commitment to honouring themself and their process. As they said “stepping into who you are is no picnic”. I was thankful I could be there with and for them in this challenging space. As Peter Levine said “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
Will we experience challenges to our honouring our humanity as we live in our world? Absolutely, without a doubt! And it’s in these moments that we have the opportunity to become more fluid and free in honouring our own, and each other’s humanity as the works in progress that we are.
I’ve only scratched the surface here, and I’m curious. Are there other ways or places where you can see honouring your own, or another’s humanity making a practical difference in your life? If so I’d love to hear from you! If any of this feels resonant, and you’re looking for a way of creating (or perhaps deepening) connection with me and some of our Realizing RICH Relationships community, or if you have questions, I hope you’ll consider joining us on Tuesday September 25, from 8-9 pm ET. It’s our usual 4th Tuesday of the month no cost, At Home with Maralyn & Friends call – the EVENING version.
Remember, you only need to register once for these calls, if you’ve not yet done so and would like to, click here.
I know the difference it makes to have our experiences witnessed, and feel held in a community of support. As it feels true for you, I invite you to join us – to share, and perhaps explore more deeply what honouring our humanity might mean for you.