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Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Hubris and getting out of one's own way

I believe most people realize they don't know it all.  Only a true narcissist would think that they do.   However, I think a lot of people think they think they 'get it' when that's not necessarily the case.  That is they think they are easily able to understand people and circumstances.  In other words, they feel like they are easily able to assess people and/or situations based on their life experiences and other factors.   The problem is that not everyone experiences or is taught life the same way.   For example, a person who has spent his childhood being corrected the adult in their life, might view an innocent suggestion given as trying to control him or her.   Whereas, a person who has felt like they've been heard even as a kid and might better read the speaker.  They might properly view the same suggestion as an attempt to help them see an easier way to do something.   This points to what I see a flaw in trying to read people and situations.   Sometimes, our own personal experiences, rather then informing us, can cloud our ability to 'get it' when presented with a person or situation or circumstance.   Sometimes, a mistaken assessment of our own knowledge and abilities--often based on what we've been taught--can get in the way of our understanding.  Sometimes, both combine to get in the way of true understanding vs. a mistaken belief that we understand.

Why we misread others and circumstances.

  • We have been told 'the way it is' time and again by those in authority whom we respect.
    • It could be a parent, minister, teacher or someone whom we look up to.
      • They may have emphasized that people who get poor grades are either a) ignorant or b) don't try hard enough.  Sometimes, it is neither. 
      • They may have told us people from "that side of town" are more dangerous.  This may be due to their own negative experiences and not based in fact or reality.
    • They are/were very sincere in their explaining life as they see it.
      • A strongly held belief if presented well, can be seen effectively as a 'truth'.
      • A strongly held belief if asserted confidently enough can taken as a 'truth'.
    • We wanted their approval or to emulate them, so we take what they say to heart.
      • We don't want to be seen as lazy or a failure.  So, we push ourselves and in the process come to believe that others who aren't "pushing themselves" don't care and/or are lazy.
  • We have experienced what we saw as a similar situation on occasion in our own life.
    • Whether it is from our own life or the life of someone close to us, we have made observations about situations.  In other words, we believe we are familiar with that type of person or situation.
      • For example, if people close to us have let us down, my may 'decide' that most people are 'in it' for themselves.
    • A first or early impression can imprint on us.  We may not have a grasp of what we see or observe, but nonetheless it leaves an impression.
      • For example, if as a youngster, we tried to get an autograph from a player  and instead we got attitude.  This might lead us to a mistaken impression going forward that 'all' professional athletes as ultimately arrogant and self-centered.
  • We have a misconception of our knowledge or experience.
    • If we've never really faced a given circumstance before, while we may have understood intellectually, we never have really 'gotten it'.
      • If we've never had to truly face hunger before, we might not get the level of desperation a person suffering from real hunger has.
      • If we've never had to truly face depression, it sounds easy to tell a depressed person to seek help.  But, we may not understand that a deep sense of shame or embarrassment combined with the negative energy of depression may make it nearly impossible for someone to proactively seek out help.
    • We might have experience in a similar area/circumstance, but that doesn't mean we can apply it to a similar one.
      • A person who is good at drawing and believe mistakenly that if we can draw well we would probably be a good painter.  That is not necessarily a given.

How can we mitigate against misreading.
  • Treat each situation/person separately.  (Guard against profiling)  
    • Just because a person/situation/circumstance reminds you of someone/something doesn't mean it is definitely so.  
    • Attempt to, if you have the opportunity, to seek out more information before you come to 'conclusion'.  You may that you didn't have enough information to assess the person or situation correctly, when you were initially trying to assess.
  • Look for context or understand you might not have context.
    • Often times a circumstance or situation can by itself read one way.  But, when you see the larger picture, it reads completely different.
    • For example, you might see someone you run store might not say hi to you when you say hi to them.   What you may not know is the person might have received horrible news and is distracted.
  • Understand that while you may be knowledgeable and a good read of people, you don't 'know-it-all'.    
    • Sometimes, we may mistakenly think we have enough knowledge to make a value judgement of a person or circumstance.
    • I used to have a less forgiving view of drug addicts until I realize a) what might drive someone to drugs,  b) People don't always know that they are getting into, and c) kicking the habit may sound like a 'if-it is important enough to them' matter, but really it might be way beyond that.
    • A late friend of mine struggled with heroine addiction.  It ultimately led to an early grave for her.  I realized along the line that she had likely been abused, that she hadn't started out on heroine, and less than 10% of heroine addicts avoid dying or going to prison.  In other words, it isn't something that is easily kicked.  
      • If you are weakened emotionally along the way, it can make you more subject to getting addicted and not being able to kick it.
      • Withdrawal is apparently so bad that the sweet lies of 'feeling better' and stopping 'next time' outweigh the physical and psychological torture associated with attempts to withdraw from it.

Ultimately, I helped one friend get off the bottle successfully.  That gave me a false sense that I could do the same again with my other friend who was on heroine.  Hubris got in my way.  

There is nothing wrong with being confident in your intuition as often your gut feeling is right on the money.   There is nothing wrong with feeling confidence in your abilities or knowledge.  There is nothing wrong with forming an impression--after all we all have to live our lives based on knowledge and judgement of people and circumstances.  The problem lies in an inability or willingness to move on from or be open to another read of a person or circumstance.   If we are so used to something meaning one thing in our experience, we may miss that it could mean another.   It may look and sound like a horse, but sometimes it is a zebra.  Ultimately, we have to not like our biases and stubbornness get in the way of better judgment.   In other words, 'getting out of our own way'.   Easier said than done and no doubt that take a lot of practice for many people.   But, the payoff can be great.  

  • We can gain a better understanding of someone or something.
  • We can make better choices based our willingness to do so.
  • We can develop greater and better relationships and friendship or in some cases avoid disastrous ones.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Being my brother's keeper: A guide to honoring society as our family.

I suspect that recent unrest in this country has a lot of people thinking and reevaluating their perspective on society. Given the sharpness of the unrest, I have found it hard not to. I have taken some time to break down my perspective or thinking on society including race. I don't necessarily think I've had a major shift, but I think I have focused me better on how we should treat each other.
In this (reevaluation) process, it occurred to me that a helpful perspective or lens to view society through is that of family. Whether we like it or not, as a society we are a family. For a family to function in a healthy peaceful way, each member has to consider other members of the family. We have to consider where they are, not where we think they should be, but where they are. For example, we could get into a debate on how far we've come with regard to race relations and how much progress we've made as a country, etc. Different people and different groups would tend to have a different points of view. Some would believe that since we have solid enforceable laws in place and integration going on for decades, that 'society' has done its role. Some people believe we've basically made no progress. I tend to believe somewhere in between those two perspectives. Yes, we could get into a precise debate on how far we've come or haven't come, but I think it misses the point.

For me, if my brother or sister is upset and feels like he or she hasn't been heard or been treated equally in the family, what would happen if I told him or her: "Yes, you have been heard" and "Yes, you have been treated equally in the family."?
You Got It: We'd have a big blowup. This is especially true if historically his or her point of view is valid. If he or she had been mistreated or marginalized in the family previously, to dismiss his or her concerns now would be insulting. Even if I can't see his or her perspective at this juncture, what good would it do for me (and the family in general) if I rigidly stuck with an opposing position? While I might feel satisfied that my position or perspective is justified, I can kiss any semblance of family harmony goodbye with that pose.

If a family member feels like he or she is disempowered relative to the rest of the family and I'm the 'head' of the family, shouldn't I see that keeping a rigidly opposed position is harmful? Wouldn't it make sense for me to really listen to why my brother or sister feels that way? Wouldn't it makes sense for family harmony to see what we could do to make my brother or sister feel empowered? For example, if my brother or sister has been bullied in the past within the family and survived it, I could say, you know, "It happened and you are stronger person for it, so let's just move on for the sake of unity". However, chances are that attitude would cause problems. Yes, it is good that he or she survived the bullying and it toughened him or her up, but that doesn't mean it had no long-term negative effects or damage. Nor does it mean that it could be ignored or pushed aside casually out of convenience. Sure, I might not be responsible for the bullying that happened. I might not have even been there when the bullying happened, but that doesn't mean that it's fine to avoid a role in the family healing process. Maybe there have been overtures from the bullies in the family towards my brother or sister. That doesn't mean that I can say, "well they've dealt with it and it's all good now". No, as a leader of the family, I should willing to dig deeper and look harder at the damage. If my brother or sister still feels hurt or marginalized, I should be willing to see how I could lead an effort to make him or her feel included and protected.

Switching gears for a moment, I realized a few years ago you can't easily fix everything. That doesn't mean you can't fix anything or shouldn't try. Instead of throwing our hands up in the air or saying what's the use, shouldn't we attempt to work on that which we can fix or improve? If we value family harmony, shouldn't we work to find a way to make sure everyone in the family feels equally respected and valued? In the case above, equally respected and values includes addressing the bullying that occurred. In a sense, we when we address issues like that, we are taking on the role of our brother's keeper.

Brother's keeper role:
  • That doesn't mean we do everything for our injured or marginalized brother out of pity for the hurt or unfortunate circumstances he has found himself under. But, it means giving of ourselves where we can and it would be helpful. It means making sure our brother has the tools available to help him help himself. For example, if I make sure my brother has access to a good education, I am helping to do him right in the long-term.
  • That doesn't mean that we absolve our brother of any responsibility for his role in the family or of any expectations. Instead, as a family, we can seek to find a healthy and strong role in the family for our brother. We should encourage him to have high expectations for himself and seek to make sure he has all the tools available to achieve that. That may include giving of our own tools.
  • It means we take a role in making sure our brother feels like he has an equal stake in the family. He needs to know that his input matters. He needs to know that his contributions can lead to him reaping the rewards that the family yields. If he feels empowered, it will help him and help the family as a whole. If he feel disempowered or hindered, the whole family suffers and he likely feels alienated.
  • It means we work to make sure that our brother feels like he has an equal voice in the family. In the example above, part of this process includes addressing the bullying and working to make sure that doesn't happen again. After being bullied he may not feel that he has a equal voice, especially if it appears like the bullying never went away or that he feels he might still be subject to it.
  • It means realizing that even if our brother makes a mistake that our brother is not a mistake and not to treat him like one. In other words, showing compassion and forgiveness. Each of us are imperfect and make mistakes, but that doesn't mean we can be marginalized. Similarly, we shouldn't marginalize family members when they make mistakes.
Ideally, if we all seek a role as our Brother's--or Sister's-Keeper, we will have each other's back and hopefully will have an empowered family. However, if we ignore our role as our brother's (or sister's) keeper and let our brother or sister feel disempowered without trying to remedy that, our family will not be as strong as it should be and ultimately it is at risk of collapsing.


I could have spoken of race relations directly in this blog post, but I feel sometimes we get lost in the 'black and white' literally. Meaning we get lost in tribalism or a camp and can't see the bigger picture. Historically African Americans have not been treated well in this country. Slavery, lynching, Jim Crowe, etc. are a huge stain on our country which only through cooperation we can fully move forward from. By move forward from, I don't mean to ever forget, but I mean to row in the same direction. If we keep fighting the same battles over and over again, we are rowing in the opposite directions and will not get very far. If we find a way to row in the same direction, we work towards rowing to a happier and more spiritually healthy destination.

We have to identify where we've made progress and where we need to make progress. We all--black, white, brown, yellow and red--have to be part of the solution. We have to be willing to to adjust where we find ourselves part of the problem. For our country to survive long term, I believe we have to view each other (by group and individually) as members of a larger family called SOCIETY. I cannot control what was done before me and/or by others, but what I can control is pushing to make sure that people as individuals, a group, a resident of my state and as a U.S. citizen are:
  • Treated justly
    • Under the law.
    • Under my faith. (Think golden rule)
  • Treated fairly.
    • Making sure that all have a legitimate shot at the dream.
    • Includes doubling down to make sure those who have historically been disadvantaged and underserved have a legitimate shot too.
  • Treated equally.
    • We should strive to treat people as even-handedly as possible, even when their circumstances differ.
    • It doesn't mean we don't reward excellence. On the contrary, it means push for excellence for everyone.
  • Treated respectfully
    • Essentially treated each other as one of God's children.
    • Love all people as my neighbor and help where I can.
It's funny I was listening to TLC the other day and read up on them. I didn't realize that they were the 2nd largest selling all-female group of all time and the largest selling American one. In other words, their music crossed over everywhere. Obviously, I come from a different background than them. I'm sure how I express myself in word and in message is different in many ways. However, I realize that they are part of the fabric of our society. When I listened to them, I realize that I wasn't listening just listening to three young women singing R & B music, I was listening to three young women singing American music whose accomplishments I think deserve to be honored in our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They captured a moment in the 1990s breaking down gender and race barriers. They are not just the best selling African-American all female-group of all time, but they are the best selling AMERICAN all-female group of all time. They are part of the fabric of our society. Part of our healing is making sure that each of us, independent of race or starting point, feels like they are part of our society. We are very diverse it is not always comfortable for all sides, but we have to find a way, to find a middle ground where we can respect each other properly and not point fingers. We have to find a way where we can appreciate what everyone brings to the table instead of isolating.

I dunno, just some thoughts.