By Neal Lemery
These are not gentle times. And, having a mean streak seems almost a requirement these days, as we navigate social media and the cultural and political climate.
Our culture, and so many commentators and “leaders”, are so quick to make judgement, to express opinions, and eagerly offer criticism and condemnation of others’ points of view. Political, social, and artistic criticism now is so often unkind, harsh, even vicious to the point of hostility and intolerance.
It is an easy train to climb aboard, and my snarky and off-handed comments are often a computer click away from getting out into the world, showing up on the social media “news feeds” that have become the path by which most of us engage with others. Be quick, spontaneous, “get it out there”, and move on to something else. The popular term, “click bait” comes to mind as having a meaning larger than how we define the term. Is being polite too time consuming, too unfashionable? It seems easier just to fire off a salvo, and “let it fly”.
We’ve come a long way from the days when social commentary and personal expression in public came after laboring over a sheet of linen paper with a quill pen, and a pot of ink. A letter to the editor not only took time to compose and hand write, but also required an envelope, a stamp, and a trip to the post office. Public expression took time and effort, and hopefully a lot of thought in the process.
I am realizing I’ve been conditioned to be the Pavlovian dog, to respond to stimuli in an expected, routine “in a New York minute” way, simply becoming a product of this age of advertising, manipulation, and conditioning.
But what if I was, instead, calm, supportive, caring, and expressed unconditional compassion and love? Perhaps just being present, in a kind way, should be my response to others in conflict and crisis. Can I just suspend judgement and criticism? Maybe not feeding my ego with my unappreciated and intrusive opinions when simply being there for someone, and exuding gentle support and kindness would be much more appreciated and needed in the situation.
“You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you’re completely willing to end up wherever they need to go. You give your heart, let go of control, and offer unconditional support.”
—Lynn Hauka — Coach
In life, we have numerous job titles and duties, and often, those are multiple roles, calling upon our experiences and our ability to navigate the complexities and subtleties of modern life. Being the son, the father, the uncle, the spouse, the friend, the mentor, the teacher, the confidante is a role more appropriate by just quietly being there for someone. Unwanted and often uninformed advice often taints the situation, and shame, guilt, and a sense of failure soon follows.
Holding space “…means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”
What the situation really often calls for is compassion and unconditional love, a holding of sacred space to just “let it be”. That may not be what our culture seems to expect, yet it is a revolutionary and culture-changing response.
For me, I need to take a breath, and let it out slowly, taking my time to plan my response, and to put myself in the most effective position of the supporting, compassionate friend and listening post that the person in need is really needing to have around when the crisis is at hand.
We don’t have to rush in, armed with our snap judgements and fire hose responses, issuing our breathless bulletins on social media, or even feeding the local gossip mill. Time is on our side, and is an ally for the managers of crisis and personal angst. Time will tell if I need to voice an opinion, or give some wise counsel, and if I do, then the wait will be worthwhile, and the Universe will give me that guidance. And, I can frame the most appropriate, the most effective action.
Or, I can simply be there, offering support quietly, by my presence, exuding kindness and love and understanding, and offering the balm of friendship and compassion.
Silence, often, becomes the best tool, the most effective fix to the matter at hand. One kind, thoughtful, compassionate soul become an ally, rather than an unwelcome new factor, the volatile instigator of an even larger conflagration.
Simply by holding space, by being the calm in the storm, you can make a better world.