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Life beyond fear and guilt

Voice: Part 2

In October I will be voting ‘Yes!’

“Pricey you’re speaking a lot of crap!” My reaction, so often, when people challenge me is immediately to go on the defensive. Internally I immediately justify my position and a whole litany of reasons why THEY are wrong come to my mind. I am immediately hooked into a dualistic approach: win – lose, right – wrong, black – white, saved – damned etc. If I am not careful Damien is always right, wise and saved and the rest of humanity is wrong, unwise, and biased. Real life is just not like that.

So, when topics such as ‘The Voice’ come up all of us, myself included, we can run to defend out positions. We can feel judged, threatened, and misunderstood. If I am not careful Damien can go to a very ego driven high moral ground. So, for true discernment and decision making over the coming weeks as regards the upcoming referendum we will all need some true humility, huge ears and open hearts. This is particular true when we feel strongly about an issue – but again here, one of the key questions is, “Why do I feel so strongly about this and where is this strength of feeling coming from?” There will be great wisdom and insight in the answers to that question.

Complex and strongly felt questions and issues invite us to true, honest reflection. One of the great attributes of a true leader and a great person is to stand back from any strongly held view and see the bigger picture – for there is always a bigger picture. The bigger picture invites insight and understanding – and when we understand we will hold the issue, any issue, more lightly. By holding the issue more lightly I mean not having the mind, heart or hand clenched tightly in a way that blocks out all dialogue and room for change. “I am right – damn right – and YOU are WRONG!”

Wisdom will come from the ability to become aware of my reaction and then why I am reacting the way I am. There is nothing to be feared in increased awareness – it is the doorway to truth and understanding and ultimately – to freedom, personal, inner freedom. The opposite fuels prejudice, bias, silo thinking, dualism and fear. This is not easy. It is not easy to ‘step back’, to become aware of our bias and prejudice, to be truly open to a view other than my own, to hold lightly and to be willing to change.

The danger is that we don’t do this inner work. The danger then is that we increasingly build higher and higher walls. The danger is that we increasingly defend our positions with bigger and bigger cannons. The danger is that we increasingly label anyone or anything that does not conform to my worldview as both enemy and wrong. We know we are doing this when our language is increasingly full of ‘us’ and ‘them’ language.

So, as we journey towards the referendum on ‘The Voice’ we all need to:

  1. Become aware of where my energy for “Yes” or “No” is coming from – hold that lightly!
  2. Become aware, in a non-defensive way of my ‘why’ behind my energy!
  3. Truly, humbly, and courageously, take off my shoes and seek understanding of where the ‘other’ is coming from and why.
  4. Dialogue, engage in true listening and be open to learn, shift position and draw closer to a universal truth based upon respect.

Now, I stated in my very first sentence that I am voting “yes” and yes, I feel strongly about it. But Damien’s journey is to seek understanding of why people may be contemplating voting ‘no’ – dialogue with that energy – not in a defensive “I am right, you are wrong” way – but with true openness and respect. Then, from that dialogue and listening we will individually and collectively be better for it.

My intuition is that some of the energy around the ‘no’ campaign is driven by fear just as some of the energy in the ‘yes’ campaign may be driven by guilt.. Some of that fear and guilt is totally understandable. Fear and guilt are not good motivators. In our lives we must constantly seek a more noble and freeing motivation for who we are beyond fear and beyond guilt.

In my blogs I have often written about the politics of fear. I don’t know what it is like to live day by day in other countries of the world, but I do know that regularly here in Australia when we are faced with apparently difficult situations one side of politics or the other will once again play the fear factor. I feel we have done it around refugees and asylum seekers and we have done it around climate change.

Fear is easy and lazy politics. Fear appeals to the lowest common denominator. There is nothing noble in fear. Fear divides. Fear does not heal, ennoble, enhance, or bring unity. When driven by fear one loses individually and we lose collectively.

I have also often written that we grow by facing our fears, naming them, facing them and growing through and from them.

So once again as we face a referendum that invites us to say ‘Yes’ to our fellow Australians having a voice and a seat at the table as regards issues that directly affect them – the fear sellers are out in force.

Now, I need to be very careful here for there is a fear seller within myself too. I too have used fear as an excuse, I too have had times in my life when fear has run my life, I too have engaged in easy politics (easy argument) and I too have walked away from real debate and respectful conversation.

The first step with fear is to be aware of it. The first step in conquering our biases is to become aware of them and to name them. But rarely does a bias contain the whole truth. One way to conquer fear and address bias is to build relationship with the object of our fear and bias. Often, I have used the phrase:

Know the story – Tell the story – Become the story teller

I worked with homeless people for over twenty years. I have lost count of the number of times I have been at a BBQ or something and overheard people labelling and judging homeless people as “lazy” “dole bludgers” “druggies” and more. When I have attempted to be aware of my own ego and bias and then, as calmly as I can, asked, “Have you ever met or dialogued with a homeless person?” the answer is invariably “no!”

When you spend time with people who live on the streets because of mental illness, life circumstance or abuse in its many forms you quickly come to realise that the reasons for homelessness are complex and multi-layered. It is all about story – their sacred, complex, and often pain filled stories. There is a reason, many reasons, why and how they ended up on the streets.

So, with The Voice, build relationship. Build respectful relationships and occasions for true and open dialogue with our First Nations people and those who work directly with them. Listen to their stories. Listen, truly, deeply listen – listen with humility and respect. Become aware of the labelling energy that will immediately come to your mind. Park the politics. Park the need to be ‘right’. Park the loud voice or the louder voice – park the dominating voice or perspective. Stand back with courage and humility and listen to and for truth in its thousand faces and whispers.

On the morning after the referendum, I want to wake up in a more united, more respect filled, more story aware Australia where individually and collectively we claim and celebrate our voice and our diversity. Then we as a nation will have taken a powerful step towards a national identity and story that we can rightly be proud of.

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