As I work on social issues, it’s so easy for me to see people as needing my help, to see myself as superior—I’m making these efforts for them. But the reality is we need each other to build this world anew. We need everyone on board. These oppressive systems damage all of us, even those who benefit from them. The only way for everyone to be free is to work together. And we are all needed in this work—every single one of us. You are vital in this effort and so am I. Together we can build something beautiful.
Who am I working with?
So what am I learning about the person in front of me? What do they know that I don’t? Where is their area of expertise? What is their passion? What are their talents and gifts? Maybe they find the positive side of a problem. Perhaps they have deep insight into people and situations. This person could have great dexterity in handcrafts or an extensive knowledge about the natural world. Maybe they have deep wisdom gained from lived experience. Whatever it is, the person in front of me has an important part to play in the work of moving the world forward.
I recently caught myself falling into that “savior” role and I just stopped. I did an about-face and went into the situation without an agenda and focused on being open to whatever emerged from the interaction.
As a result, I’m starting to see patterns emerge. In most conversations, there’s a period, long or short, of talking on the surface of things, dealing with the day-to-day details of life. When I’m open and listening (and not trying to impose what I think should happen), very often the conversation will go deep, and we start sharing insights and learnings. Sometimes questions arise that we grapple with together. The conversation becomes a rich exploration that nourishes all of us.
Cost of Superiority
The more I step back from that “savior” role, the more I realize that this sense of superiority isn’t a benefit at all; it’s a burden. When I let go of it and really see the person in front of me, I’m filled with gratitude and relief. I don’t have to carry it all! I don’t have to have all the answers and I don’t have to know everything.
This sense of superiority comes at a high cost—to the world, to the relationship and to me. When I let go of that burden, I make room—room to breathe, room to grow, room for others to shine. And with that spaciousness comes laughter and relief. And the work we do together can become joyous.
Check out these links for more posts in the series: