Just like my clients, family, and neighbors I’m asking myself what to do?
I haven’t figured out great answers.
I’m used to having answers, and I have great skills for finding answers.
So not figuring it out is frustrating and frightening.
What I have figured out, is that there is much cruelty around us, marginalization and harassment is cruelty.
Bullying and oppression is cruelty.
Cruelty is behavior that causes pain or suffering; but it’s also callous indifference to that pain and suffering.
Cruelty shows up as racism, and also as antisemitism, xenophobia, chauvinism, and bigotry.
My DNA is laced with millennia of cruel persecution, harassment, and organized efforts to kill and eliminate my ancestors and family.So are African Americans, Gypsies, Gays and a painfully long list of targeted populations.
Some cruel people act alone, some act in groups. There is systemic cruelty in legal, educational, and financial systems.
No doubt you believe that you’d do something to stop cruel behavior.
No doubt you’d stand up for yourself and others.
But you’re likely deluding yourself.
A Yale psychology professor, asked a group of women, “How would you feel if you had a job interview and someone asked you really sexist, ugly questions?”
Almost everyone answered the way you and I would, something like: “I would walk out. I would give the person hell.”
Her team set up interviews (the positions were attractive, but the jobs were fake), and interviewees were asked several sexist, ugly questions. Every one of the women interviewees was just silent.
“Every. One. Was. Silent.”
How we believe we’ll behave, and how we actually behave in stressful, cruel, and demeaning situations are not the same.
We behave much more meekly in reality than in their minds. And cruelty spreads and normalizes with each instance that we accept and tolerate.
With each silent acceptance of pain and suffering we increase the presence of cruelty.
But here’s what I’m thinking about and doing, and what I’m inviting you to think about and do with me.
Say something. I’m not willing to be a complicit participant when I see or hear cruelty.
Meanness in the office, bullying in politics, and racism in the streets are cruel actions.
Silence emboldens the cruel.
I can speak up with courage, yes.
But I can also speak up from love, and I can speak up from my values of compassion, service, and collaboration.
My feelings are guides and indicators. Feeling shame and remorse are signaling that there is a better version of me waiting to come forward.
I won’t drown my shame and regret in rationalization or denial.
Rather, these feeling marinate in my psyche and call forward my best self. Don’t be cruel. I won’t cause pain and suffering to people around me.
How can I tell?
I watch people’s reactions to me. I will be more curious about their experience of me. I commit to not act with anger, malice, sarcasm, or bullying.
I acknowledge the systemic cruelty of racism and am getting educated about the history and impact of slavery and oppression.
I feel love, and I also practice love behaviors.
Specifically, I practice compassion – doing something to relieve another’s suffering, and I practice deep listening – giving my full attention to someone.
I wish that we all rise in consciousness and spiritual clarity.
The markers of spiritual evolution are never cruelty and oppression, the markers of spiritual evolution are always kindness and inclusion.