June 24, 2012
The idea for this post came from a powerful Susan Piver quote on her Open Heart Project site. Here’s the quote:
“There is only one misstep we can take in this whole endeavor, one step, that if we go there, any situation becomes completely unworkable. That step is to divide the world into us and them. Once we put ourselves on the right side of the line and others on the wrong side, there is absolutely nowhere to go. I’m not at all suggesting that we should forgive, condone, or accept terrible people or things. Honestly, there are events in this world that cause me to feel what I can only call hate. But we are all in this together. The inexcusable things are also my responsibility—not that I caused them or should beblamed for them, but still I am obligated to help set things right.”
Susan’s comments made me think of all the time and energy I’ve expended building cases in my head against someone or something. In hindsight I’m stunningly aware that I have nothing to show for it. I’m not referring to thoughtful deliberation that leads to productive action. I’m talking about the in-my-head-broken-record-repetition of the same story, over and over and over. The story of how someone did me wrong, or did the world wrong, or did something that wasn’t in keeping with my personal code of ethics. If I could bottle that energy I’d have enough juice to power myself to the moon.
In addition to my private ruminations, I notice there’s another way I put people on the other side of the line. I pick a side. There seems to be a switch in my brain that flips when I argue for one side of a situation. My body tenses, I become more alert, and I experience a bit of an adrenaline rush. At the same time, I pretty much stop listening to the other person except to find holes in their argument or to notice when I can step back in and take the floor again. When there is a face-off between two people who believe their position is more valid than the other guy’s, no one wins. Either they ‘agree to disagree’ or someone gives in with a disgruntled “Whatever” and walks away, or they simply run out of steam and, exhausted and disheartened, table it for later.
This isn’t black and white. Of course there are times when it’s crucial to take a stand. That’s for another post.
So is there a person or a group or a cause you have put on the other side of the line?
The way I’ve been trying to set that right lately is to notice when my feet are embedded on one side. Sometimes when I see what I’m doing I can lean in to the situation with an open heart. But I’ll tell you the truth. The bit about opening my heart when I’m in the grip of an intense emotion is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. Sometimes the best I can do is to just stop. Stop talking. Stop defending and explaining and justifying. I’m working on it.