Sunday, November 8, 2015

Random thoughts about self-righteousness that I'll probably delete later...

I haven't written a blog post in forever. And this doesn't really count as one to me, since it's really just a Facebook status that I wrote, then copy & pasted into blogspot because I didn't think anyone would read a status this long. (It eventually got longer and longer so I am forced to acknowledge it as a post).

But here goes:

I think that sometimes we (I especially) do a piss-poor job of allowing people to grow. There's a balance between calling people out for being wrong about things (i.e. racism, sexism, [insert]-ism, etc), and giving people the opportunity to grow, right? Ignorance is real, but not all ignorance comes from a negative or willfully negligent place. There was a time when every single one of us did (and continue to do) problematic things, but eventually learned and grew. Whether through good mentors, teachers, friends, or books, we had a chance to expand and hopefully took it.

Speaking from experience, I was often defensive and resistant to anything that exposed the problematic ideas, prejudices, or opinions that I held, because major shifts in thinking are uncomfortable. It's a moment when your stable and comfortable worldview is shaken, and it's never fun to feel like you're losing your footing. But eventually, if open to it, these shifts become welcome experiences because the opportunity for growth and expansion becomes a gift for those who recognize it as such.

So with that said, if we want people to be more open, compassionate, and understanding, isn't it necessary for those of us trying to cultivate spaces for growth to be even MORE open, compassionate, and understanding? (Please note that I'm not talking about situations of extreme violence or bigotry which out of necessity need to be met with intense and loud opposition). I'm talking about the daily encounters we have with others, where someone unintentionally says something problematic and we jump down their throat in defense of what's right. I think I often fall into the trap of assuming that if I'm not unwavering and forceful in my rejection of the "ignorance", that it somehow validates the problematic views held. In reality, I need to remember that patience and compassion go a long way in creating trust and building bridges between people with opposing views.

So I guess what I'm really getting at, is, if we end up alienating people for not having learned something yet, are we not the bigger problem? Our staunch self-righteousness mirrors the very conceit endemic to the ignorance we purport to fight. Just because we perceive ourselves to have taken one step in the right direction, does not mean that we should stop and mock those who  to our potentially flawed perceptions  fell behind. To even frame it as such indicates that we dangerously close to completely veering off course. Once we find ourselves on the slippery slope of self-aggrandizement, we risk undoing the very progress we foolishly paused to celebrate in the first place.

I have to remind myself regularly that growth requires a remarkable amount of honesty, humility, vulnerability, and willpower. Eventually though, I believe that it can be sustained in part by the momentum generated through repetition. Therefore, if we stop longer than necessary to catch our breaths and pat ourselves on the back for how far we think we've come, we risk losing everything we worked for  and may soon find ourselves back at square one.