Imagine being in a room of, I don’t know, 30-50 people, and you hear this:
“Oh my goodness, that sounds sooo hard. What do you think we should do about this?”
No, it wasn’t something dirty. But then again….. I don’t know. I’m still messed up about it.
We were doing dirty work. Social justice work is indeed dirty work. But not that kind of dirty.
It was a training/retreat. Nice getaway from the norm. Maybe 13-14 years ago now.
So we’re discussing ways to make inroads and have productive conversations with the folks in our community with the most power and influence.
Around the room we went discussing strategies that had worked well in the past along with those that hadn’t. At some point, we get to Beth*. Beth was a veteran, well-respected, and held a high-ranking leadership position in her region.
Now since she served in a community that was more traditional and guarded than some of the other communities, we really wanted to know how she was getting anything done at all.
So one thing I noticed was that she didn’t seem to have the typical social justice battle scars. She smiled really sweetly. And her smile didn’t seem like it was covering up pent up frustration.
No, wear and tear around the edges that usually makes people start mentally calculating around what day you might check out and put in your resignation.
Nope. Beth was on a chill setting for real.
I know I was wondering what was going on.
She seemed amazed that we were having such a terrible time. Her agency had an excellent relationship with the old boys club in her community.
Incredulous might be a word you could use to sum up the overall sentiment of the room. What the….?
Okay at this point we all wanted to know what it was that Beth had already mastered that we obviously didn’t even know about yet.
(I can’t even write this part without smacking my lips.)
Beth told us that whenever she runs into an obstacle with the powerful men in her town and wants to figure out her way around it she, just says something like, “Oh my goodness, that sounds sooo hard. What do you think we should do about this?”
Okay, that was bad enough. Unfortunately, Beth demonstrated the voice that goes along with her “helpless” words. In that room that day, we heard the voice of Marilyn Monroe and it was not coming from her grave.
Every living being within those 4 walls was stunned.
That pause just hung out in the room for a little while longer. Finally, the facilitator, who happened to be a male, somehow managed to come up with a response. Actually it was a very good one.
Where he found the words I have no clue. because the rest of us, were so stunned we couldn’t even manage to blink. I felt so bad for her.
I felt like we were in a science fiction movie and this is the part where we figure out that Beth got captured by the alien or monster thing. At that moment, it felt as if we were sitting with what was left of her.
“Oh man, they got Beth!”
I am amazed at his masterful skills as a facilitator for turning that terrible mess into a terrific message.
He quietly told the group that it is possible for people to serve the unheard, the oppressed, and those most in need by way of social justice work without ever surrendering our dignity in the process.
I empathize with Beth still today. She had a powerful position in a town where there was a limited amount of power. Only a tiny portion was rationed off to a few of the local women doing “women’s work”.
In order to hold onto it of course, one must go along to get along. At least that is how Beth came to see it.
Some of us have been taught by someone in our lives that we must be a fraction of who we are in order to make someone else feel comfortable in our presence. So that someone else isn’t intimidated, doesn’t feel small, or less than. We were taught to hold back so that people will like us.
Someone told you wrong.
Even if you comply, they still won’t like you. Might even put a little hate on it too.
They still won’t fight for you or even with you. And they certainly will never learn to respect you.
I urge you to be your best authentic and genuine self at all times. Since you are the only person required to be in your own presence at all times.
Therefore make certain that You are comfortable with YOU.
*For “Beth’s” sake, I changed the name.
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