Empowerment, Forgiveness and Empathy
And so when I ask the men at minimum about last week’s empowerment triangle and they look at me blankly, the story “I’m deluding myself that this is making a difference” appears. And when I observe that the current “warmth and cohesiveness” that has been built in the women’s group has only one woman of color left, (the two women I had most hoped were getting something out of the class are currently in seg, which coincided with several other women dropping out at the same time), the story, “I have no business being in here” appears. Meanwhile, I steadily pour out the “art of communication” curriculum to two classes with way too much talking, not enough listening and while the women are mostly engaged, the men seem utterly checked out and I think to myself, “if Fleet were here they would be listening.” Somehow the stories pile up (taking the shape of an old familiar story: “I’m not good enough at this so maybe I shouldn’t do it anymore”), even taking away from what was otherwise a solid (if somewhat unremarkable) class on forgiveness at Men’s Medium this week where one guy spoke beautifully about how it all boils down to love. Oh but wait, “what the heck do I know about love?!” Ugghhh.
Of course, the answers are right in front of me:
From the empathy work, I can say that I’m sad and hurt and frustrated because I have a need to feel a sense of purpose, to feel safe and authentic and appreciated, and to trust in a world of equality and grace. And I can also do my best to understand, “what it’s like to be you” instead of focusing on “what I’d like you to become.” From Forgiveness, I notice a wealth of my own unenforceable rules like “come to class and be totally engaged and while you’re at it, transform your life”, which I can choose to restate as, “I really hope that this work makes a difference in someone’s life but I know that it makes a difference in mine.” And from the Empowerment Triangle I can ask, “What can I do?” And in this case that means letting go of attachment to outcomes, not taking things personally and doing my best to learn and grow to be the best facilitator I can be for as many people in the room as possible.
Much appreciation to my colleagues at Lookout and in Mass for offering wonderful perspective, support and a wealth of ideas in this blog, (speaking of which, here’s my personal stone of the day: “if someone knew me, they would know that sometimes I wake up at 3 in the morning trying to make a class that already happened go “better” than it did…). Sigh. Breathe in, breathe out, let go.