Day 23,715: Building Muscle Ever So Slowly
Courage, according to Maya Angelou, is a muscle that must be built up like any other. In the second of a series of recordings she did with Oprah Winfrey, Angelou talks about how she grew the courage to call out hateful speech and hateful speakers.
Similar to how a muscle builder does not start lifting 200 lb. dead weights on day one, but starts with lighter weights to build muscle, Angelou believed that courage to confront hate must also be built up in small increments. Rather than beat ourselves up for not speaking up to those spouting fear and ill will, we can look it at each opportunity as a muscle building experience as we learn to develop and deliver new responses.
Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
Many of us play old confrontations over and over in our heads, wondering how we could or should have handled situations better. By studying the lessons given by this wonderful Crone who passed in 2014, one comes to learn forgiveness for oneself. Instead of beating ourselves up for what we should have said in an awkward or difficult situation, we can use it to practice what we will say in a future confrontation.
Frequently we are blindsided by hate speech and are almost in a state of shock when first exposed. We weren’t prepared for the vitriol, or never thought we’d hear or be in the presence of such speech. We can all be excused silence at first blush.
Our task, however, is to be less surprised the next time, more hardened by reality, and more committed to standing stronger in future situations. This is what makes Granny Brigades so compelling. These women have lived long enough to recognize hate early on. Their ethical barometers are accurate after years of taking temperatures, assessing situations and living through various scenarios. They realize time is short and opportunities can not be wasted.
Finding Self Forgiveness & Fortitude
“Fool me once, shame on you,” the saying goes. “Fool me twice, shame on me.” If at first we don’t react as well as we would hope in hateful situations, we can commit to never letting it happen again. That’s what makes the current hashtag #NeverAgain so powerful. It’s why the Holocast mantra, “Never Forget,” is also powerful.
For something to happen once, we can all be taken off guard. It was not imagined nor imaginable. Courage is demonstrated in standing up to stop it from ever happening again, because after one occurence we cannot ignore that it happened. We gain clarity, and hopefully build courage to confront bullies and bully pulpits wherever they may occur.
A friend recently recounted how he confronted some opposing views while standing in line in a coffee shop. He engaged in conversation and felt that at least he had caused some pause. Positions were questioned rather than accepted at face value.
My own experience was in a nail salon where a man loudly announced he could easily support the eradication of all liberals. Most patrons cringed and just stayed silent. Then I raised my hand to be clearly identify myself as a proud, heart-on-my-sleeve liberal. I was more concerned that others not experience uncontradicted pontifications than arguing with the bully himself. No arguments were needed, as the bully got quiet.
I am, by nature, not a courageous person. I cowered in kindergarten when a teacher used her bully pulpit to make an example of one fellow student. I try to fit in at work and try not to remind people of our differences. But, as I get older and cronier, I am less willing to deny who I am and my differences.
After the kindergarten experience, my mother assessed that I was too easily cowered and needed to toughen up. She diligently worked ever afterwards to get me to find my voice. I have to credit her with succeeding if not to her desired degree, to a more solid degree nonetheless. She was my first and most influential Crone. Her lessons, like those of Maya Angelou, continue to serve me to this day.
Daily Focus on Gun Sanity: At the March for Our Lives last week, an elderly man came to a local march with a neon yellow sign that asked: “Whatever happened to Well Regulated?” Here was a man who was not gunning for a fight about the second amendment (pun intended), but was asking those who valued it, why they were not taking it literally. No regulation, is not synonymous with well regulated. To gain courage in having a second amendment conversation with a strong proponent, practice asking what other’s definitions might be of the phrase “a well regulated militia.” It can start a conversation instead of a shouting match and create food for thought rather than adversarial positions on words crafted 227 years ago.