Be in the conversation, not the fight
Writer Charles Eisenstein introduced me to the idea of “the space between stories:” a time that is about figuring out what it means to be human on an earth that is struggling in myriad ways: from climate change to wealth inequality to health disparities to racism to war to fresh water scarcity…the list could go on and on. The space between stories can be described as the time when the old story of who we are, what is real and how to navigate has essentially broken down. It’s a time when familiar ways of making meaning and operating in day to day life are no longer relevant. And it’s a time when, every now and then, even through the darkest of times, glimpses of what could be present themselves.
I heard activist Jodie Evans speak last spring, and she shared stories about her work in standing up for non-violent communication efforts, protesting various war activities, and her experiences from a life spent working to promote local peace economies. She’s an advocate of not forcing an outcome, but of instead taking action that aligns with her values and being ok in the unknowing of what might come to pass as a result. She bases her work on cultivating hope from positive change, regardless of scale. But the thing she said that resonated with me the most was when she said, “be in the conversation, not the fight.” In her work, she has seen firsthand how operating from a place of love, even when the outcome is completely unknown, has proven infinitely more effective than simply going to battle for a cause.
Brene Brown wrote the following this morning, in the aftermath of yet another death of a black man by a police officer and the deaths of several police officers in retaliation at a protest:
Neither hate nor blame will lead to the justice and peace that we all want – it will only move us further apart. We can’t forget that hate and blame are seductive. Anger is easier than grief. Blame is easier than real accountability. When we choose instant relief in the form of rage, we’re in many ways choosing permanent grief for the world.
It can be challenging to interact with people these days. People often don’t agree with us, they can be resistant to listening to differing points of view, and fear many times underlays communication. People, myself included, can be (pre)contemplative about making any sort of change to their current lifestyle or way of thinking about the world. We can be up in arms and feeling forced to do things in life that seem either like jumping through hoops or like a losing battle to keep a job or get a promotion or even put healthy food on the table.
Sometimes people we know and respect come into a conversation ready to fight: with us, with the committee, with the employer, with the system or even with themselves. Sometimes WE go into an interaction –- with our leaders, with our colleagues, with our family members — expecting a fight. Change can feel like an unbeatable foe after years of trying to force what you want into being, no matter how worthy the reason. Being in a fight is usually short lived – you take and throw a few punches and eventually someone limps or is carried away. Not much gets solved.
Being in a conversation takes staying power. Compassion. Empathy for ‘the enemy.’ It takes deep listening and seeing from someone else’s perspective. I watched a youtube video the other day and the former CIA agent being interviewed said the words ‘everyone thinks they are doing the right thing.’ In a fight, it’s everyone with blinders on fighting for what they think is right. In a conversation, it’s seeing through the eyes of the other, and then acting from love despite a difference of belief or opinion or status. It’s being open to new ways of existing alongside things that make us uncomfortable.
So my question today, wise readers, is this: How can we be in the conversation, but not the fight? How can we be in that place of unknowing and still hold space for the conversation that will foster hope, and ultimately, invite the change that will lead to a more beautiful world? According to Jodie Evans, part of what will help is letting go of the “right answer” and making sure to operate from what we know deep down as truth. Then maybe we can be in the conversation, not the fight.