In our political climate, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled. I recognize that people have differing perspectives, especially in politics. I understand that I want to live my life, showing who I am, and being congruent with what I believe. I also want to practice understanding and empathizing with people who are different than me.
At the same time, I feel like things are moving at a lightening pace. It’s not only that I don’t like the pace of the social changes, but the direction is going against what I value as well. This makes it challenging to stay in that place of empathy.
Then there is a line where it’s appropriate to disconnect and disengage. Some of this is to protect myself as a member of marginalized groups. Some of it is to regroup. In a country that desperately needs to find its way back together, these lines can be hard to identify and draw.
Authenticity is important to me. Like all of us, I need people to see and understand me. This doesn’t mean all people, or in every situation. For example, I’m a therapist. In my therapy office, I have listened to perspectives that are the opposite of mine. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been able to provide that space for my clients, because that time is for them to share who they are.
In my personal life it’s different. I need the people to at least try to get me. I understand that protests and resisting have become against many of our cultural norms. We haven’t had to do this much, so this is likely going to make people feel uneasy. This is why I even understand when people insinuate that me engaging in a protest is childish or idiotic, because I know that I’m being pulled back in line.
Since the election, I’ve imperfectly been looking for where the wholehearted space is in my life. I’ve questioned almost everything. Some things I’m almost ashamed to admit having questioned. For example, “is love really stronger than hate?”
Over the past week, I’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are chanting, singing, clapping, and holding space for what they believe in. I’ve believed in it too. Equality, openness, and acceptance of our vulnerability. There is risk with open doors. There is risk with love and acceptance. I value true love, acceptance, and openness so much that I’m willing to take those risks. Not taking them is not being who I am, and who I want to be.
Here is where things get very tricky. That value of love and acceptance makes it tough to draw lines. Does acceptance mean loving someone even when they are violating my rights or the rights of others? Does it mean that I need to accept those who are complacent to my rights?
Love and acceptance is a two way street. For marginalized groups, it sadly becomes one-way too often. As members of these groups, we lived through taking what we could get. Our society largely tells us that we should be happy for what we get.
In my lifetime, but especially over the past 10 years, I have experienced that two-way street more than I ever thought possible. An openness that I’m no longer willing to put back on the shelf.
I don’t have the luxury of offering unconditional acceptance when I am not getting it back in return. There are legal concerns that I am scared about, such as now being married. But there are emotional concerns I have as well. What will it feel like to feel the pain of being told that I have to reclaim my place in second class citizenship, and be practice being content with that again. That isn’t something that I’m willing to do. That is authenticity for me as well.
This isn’t to say that I can’t have the tough talks. However, in practicing wholehearted authenticity, I have a few conditions:
- I can accept that your beliefs are different, as long as you’re not just being a critic of me.
- If you disagree with my position, it’s fine as long as you’ve tried to understand it.
- If you ask me a “why?” question, be sure that you want the answer. Otherwise, you’re not asking me a question at all, you’re making a statement.
- I’m willing to hear your emotional experience, but not be shamed for it.
- If you’re feeling shame, you have to be willing to own it yourself.
I know that these conditions aren’t easy, because I have struggled with them too. However, they’re not negotiable. This means that it’ll be tough to move forward. In moving forward, we’ll build true connection in the process.