By Carmen Morgan, LDIR Program Director
Setting the Tone
We cannot force someone to become enlightened, transformed, or aware. Our only role is to create the path by which someone can walk towards their own self- awareness. As we create that path, we should acknowledge and be aware that we are also walking that path ourselves. Our own journey continues. Our own awareness process is not over.
If we come to this work with an attitude of one-ups-manship, or as the “enlightened teacher” we will not be truly effective. If we come to this work with the humility and grace that was afforded to us as we learned about ourselves, as it is afforded to us even now as we continue to learn about ourselves, then we can do some good.
Having an Open Heart
Many of us believe strongly that the nature of our work is on the side of justice. Because we are committed to values of truth, equity, and fairness, it is easy for us as activists to become headstrong and self-righteous. It is no wonder we often do not model the values that we profess. We are angry, justified, indignant, and often burned out. And this cycle continues. The truth is that a self-righteous activist is not helpful. A self-righteous community worker is not helpful. A self-righteous, angry facilitator is not helpful.
Nor is it helpful that we position ourselves as martyrs who will burn out without self-care. And while our anger towards injustice is justified, it can often get in the way of building relationships with people. When did the issue become the person? How can we work against injustice without working against each other and ourselves? This is our greatest task.
Showing up with Grace
So then, how do we show up? We show up as a part of the process we are guiding. We are not separate from or above, merely guides. We show up with compassion and with a commitment to honor the individual, the process, and the group. All three are intertwined and invaluable. What is not valuable is our own ego or desire to control the process or an individual’s journey. “Why don’t they get it?” we might inquire. Well, why don’t we get it?
We show up with a listening ear. It’s really not our airtime or grand opportunity to expound on our wisdom. Let your wisdom shine quietly. As facilitators we can create dynamic processes and hold up powerful questions for reflection, and then step back. It’s helpful for us to keep asking ourselves, Why am I still speaking? Did I really hear what was shared? Active listening takes a tremendous amount of energy – more energy than it takes to speak. When in doubt, err on the side of listening.
Lastly, and most importantly, show up with a commitment for self-care. We must commit to continuing our own learning and healing. We need to be clear about our own limitations and when we need support. It does not mean that we become selfish, but that we remain self-aware and remember that our own journey is unfolding. We are not martyrs.