One of the most exhausting things in life is taking responsibility for other people’s responses to our words, our appearance, our way of showing up in the world.
We can try our best to explain things clearly, we can present ourselves in ways that are pleasing to other people, we can carefully construct our words so they are palatable to other people’s ears, and still we can find ourselves in a jam. With people not appreciating our intentions or point of view.
This fact alone can keep a person small and invisible for life. Because if visibility is anything it’s an amplification tool. Which means if you’re already struggling to deal with conflict in your private circles, you’re going to find it monumentally challenging amongst larger groups of people.
The thing about human beings is that we’re all walking around with all sorts of ideas, stories, beliefs and triggers. And no matter how well you think you know someone, you’ll never know their particular configuration of these things.
What the ego chooses to attach to, what we’re wounded by, what we’re able to brush off and ignore, these are all individually determined. At the same time, society is built on systems. Systems which treat people not as individuals but as a collective. And through the unequal distribution of the benefits of those systems, similar sorts of damage are imposed on specific groups of people.
In that context, you can try and be the most articulate, kind, considered, and thoughtful person in the world and you can still find yourself in situations where people are triggered by what you have to say and the way you say it.
So, rather than diminish yourself to the point where you don’t express an opinion about anything for fear of offending someone, here are some things you might try;
You can educate yourself on your own privileges. These are the advantages you’ve experienced in your life by virtue of your birth, your life circumstances, the colour of your skin, your economic status, your physical abilities, your mental health, your sexuality, or your gender.
A lack of awareness around privilege can lead to breathtakingly harmful conversations and behaviours. It can result in a dearth of compassion for other people and have you embroiled in conversations where you’re trying to defend your good intentions after having – due to your own lack of awareness – trampled all over someone else’s emotions. So increasing your awareness about how structural inequality impacts on other people is a vitally important aspect in becoming a constructively compassionate member of society.
You can build an appreciation for multiple perspectives. The ego tries to convince us there’s ‘one true perspective’ on everything from religion to politics to the food to put in our mouths. The wise person, on the other hand, knows that life is filled with individuals pursuing their own paths. Which means they’re developing perspectives and opinions which relate to the lessons they’re here to learn.
Your lessons might be very different to other people’s and so creating space for each of you to uncover what matters most to you, your soul, and your personal evolution – and creating space for others to do the same – is essential to living harmoniously in relationship with others.
You can practice compassionate witnessing rather than trying to change or fix a situation. Being a compassionate witness to someone else’s opinions or experiences is very different to inserting yourself in the middle of their experience and trying to prove yourself to be the ‘good person’ or to hold the ‘right’ perspective.
I wonder what the world would be like if, instead of trying to prove our worth to other people, we could live embodied in the truth of that knowing? Then, from that place, we could act as witnesses to other people’s evolutionary journeys and create compassionate spaces for that to occur?