We have seen in just one week, two black men killed by police officers and five police officers killed by a sniper at a peaceful protest rally in Dallas. Much has been said but I sense little has been heard.
Unfortunately, what we are experiencing may be just the tip of the iceberg of the raw emotions, frustration and disillusionment percolating beneath the surface. Hate-filled political speeches, reactionary social media commentary and dismissive personal conversations do not help change the climate and move us toward healing wholeness and a just society for all.
Each of us plays a role in creating the world we want. And one thing I know is our words help to create that world—a world filled with compassion, empathy and connectedness or a world filled with hate, scapegoating and disconnection. Each of us has the power to shape our corner of the world.
As we close this week I’d like for you, the followers of this blog to keep four things in mind today and in the ensuing weeks.
Remember Who You Are. You are a leader. It may be at home, at work, in your community, somewhere. But you are a leader. Leaders help to make conditions better. Leaders help to shape public opinion. Leaders help to make sense of reality. Leaders help create meaning. Leaders use our voices to speak up, to work for change, to build up not tear down. Leaders call for justice without acting unjustly. Whether you realize it or not, some one is watching you, and being influenced by you. Coworkers are watching how you respond to local and national crises. If you profess faith and then speak recklessly with your words, people note that. Our children are watching. Here’s an Instagram post from my friend Helen’s 13 year old daughter:
In her own way, she is leading her peers. And trust me her mother is talking to her, unpacking events and helping to shape and inform her thinking.
How will each of us help to shape our young people? They are watching us.
Respond Instead of Reacting. Let’s face it. We each can operate from one of two places—the reflective, thoughtful, prayerful or meditative place. Or the reflexive, auto-pilot, emotional, irrational place. National crises tend to trigger the latter. I know it’s difficult, but each of us, in our everyday lives, with the people we work, worship and hang out with, have got to become more intentional about slowing down our own auto-pilot reactions. Reactionary actions trigger other reactions. Words said in haste cannot be taken back. Emotions are the heart’s way of expressing our joy or sorrow, our pain or pleasure. Yet none of us can just dump our raw, unprocessed emotions on others. Find a place to express it so that you can respond intentionally. And by the way, media outlets are just as guilty of reacting during crises. NPR’s CodeSwitch tweeted onthemedia.org’s primer on discerning breaking news stories. Check out #9. Yep, it’s on you (and me) if you (or I) reflexively tweet.
Resist Perpetuating Stereotypes. You most likely hold to stereotypes that you may not even be aware of until confronted with a breaking news story about “the other.” Then you begin to make statements about all people in that category that you have created. We each do it to greater or lesser extents. Resist making either-or, black or white, all or nothing statements about any group. All police aren’t bad. All Black men are not violent. All Muslims are not terrorists. Vernā Myers gave a great Ted Talk on handling unconscious bias that is at the root of much stereotyping. Click here to view her Ted Talk.
Research for Yourself. Read widely and synthesize wisely if you want to be well-informed on what’s happening in our world. No, you can’t indiscriminately trust all sites, but there are reputable sites that provide ongoing data and analysis and let you draw your conclusions. This week I learned about the site The Counted run by the UK’s Guardian news organization. It helped put US police shootings in some perspective for me. The majority of police shootings are not of unarmed people. The majority of police shootings are of white people. Yet, unfortunately, the proportion of black men being shot far outnumbers their representation in the population. Last year was a particularly troubling year for black men as these high profile cases that garnered the most media attention were shootings of black man under questionable circumstances. The data does not justify the killing of police and the data suggest the need to address systemic issues in law enforcement affecting Black people (as well as Native Americans and Latino) in the US. Click here for the link.
This has indeed been a tough week. One day after celebrating our nation’s birthday and values of freedom, we have seen tragedies that threaten to take away our feelings of freedom.
I’d like to end with one of Joshua Dubois’s latest tweets. You’ll recall he led President Obama’s faith-based initiatives in his first term. He’s still leading from his faith.
I’d like to add:
We can lead.
Lead your loved ones in talking about the tragedies without sensationalizing.
Lead your coworkers in dialogue that is respectful and thoughtful.
Lead your children in trying to make sense of the senseless.
Lead with your heart and your head.
Lead from who you are.
Lead with prayer.
© 2016 DrJeanne