Someone once told me about a belief in the absence of proportionality. It means that whatever your action, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, it changes everything. (I wrote about something similar in the piece, We Change The World.) Essentially, if you do good to someone, you do good to the whole world. Nothing is considered small. Every gesture contributes to the whole. Everything you do makes a difference.
This piece is about standing up for yourself whatever the consequences. And it’s about how doing so can be your contribution a better world. But it’s not easy. Others will look at you as if you are overreacting, or rocking the boat, or causing more upset. You will doubt yourself at times, and you will want to take the easy way out, because, well, it’s easy.
But easy is not always right. It will take time to find the courage to do so, but you will know that every effort you made in the past brought you here, and that if those affected by your actions could see with the clarity of love and understanding, supported by deep reflection, they might glimpse the same truth which brought you to this place. But that is not an expectation you should have. That depends wholly on the other person. All you can do is stand up for yourself, and in doing so you will empower the whole world to do the same.
Last week I acted in a way which the world might say was harsh and unnecessary. There is, however, a deeper truth at work: one which points to an unhealthy family dynamic. Because of the nature of families, such things can be very difficult to tackle. It’s challenging on every level. One has a sense of duty; there are the feelings of others to consider; there is the pain I am causing with my actions; and there are the untold, unknown consequences of creating a fissure in a family system built over decades and kept in place by powerful scripts intertwined like the roots of plants growing too close together.
Even with all that facing me, I knew I had to act. I have tried before, and erred on the side of caution and compromise. I have stated my case and hoped that the other might reflect and do some work on their side of the relationship. I have waited patiently (and impatiently) for change to occur, but things just got worse.
In the end I drew a line and walked away. I talked about it with those close to me, seeking to explain the reasons for doing what I did. It has happened before, 18 years ago, but even to my own ears and with the conditioning of the world in my bones, it sounded difficult to justify. Until I felt myself say that I am moving from the acquiescent little boy, to the strong, caring man and father.
I chose to stand up for myself. After years of being a good boy and doing my best to do the right thing, the time had finally come to stand up and say ‘No more.’ It may appear to those involved that my action is sudden and unwarranted, but this is a culmination of many years of circling around the issue without taking decisive action. I tried to be kind and loving and gentle – all the things I talked about in my previous post. Convention and virtue cover up the wounds, but they do not address the problem. In trying to do the right thing I was merely perpetuating an unhealthy game, a dynamic which served no-one in any healthy, life-affirming way.
I have spoken before about the need to be selfish – it’s not always the negative trait we believe it to be. If everyone looked after themselves, we would be in such a better place. Furthermore, everyone would be able to look after others more congruently, instead of playing the kind of (unconscious) games we play in order not to feel our own pain. Games which all too often cause pain for others, without them fully realising. Games which seem to say ‘I love you’, but actually mean ‘Don’t leave me.’ Games which seek to maintain the current dynamic for fear of the uncertainty our insecurity will not allow. I too have played such games.
It was a difficult day that ended in the sunshine at a Black Lives Matter rally in my city’s woods. Thousands of people had gathered to lend their support to millions more, all of whom are united in doing exactly the same. Standing up for themselves and saying ‘No more.’ It was only when I sat down to write this piece that I saw the connection. We don’t have to wait until we witness racism to stand up. We can stand up in our own lives, draw lines in the sand, and define clear boundaries in every respect.
Each time we stand up, we are making a deep and conscious choice to inhabit a place where personal strength and clarity is possible. In doing so we automatically make it a little easier for others to do the same, thus helping to create a better world for all beings.