"When we dare to meet another as a friend, willing to hear painful and uncomfortable truths, we can discover the parts of our identities that overlap. We can acknowledge the other person's- and our own- yearning to be seen. True listening is more than an act of hearing another's words.
It is the unspoken recognition of our shared humanity." - Jacqueline Novogratz
Now is the time for listening. Leaders, true leaders, must listen. Listen to the generations of pain, hatred, prejudice, and racism. We need leaders who will listen with empathy and compassion. Those who claim to be leaders because they are loud, vulgar, abusive, and can post, tweet, and comment faster than I can write, are not leaders.
Leaders are women and men who have been challenged, they have suffered, they have worked hard, they have been betrayed, disenfranchised, and persecuted. Leaders know failure, loss, and broken trust, and they still show up. They show up open minded and open hearted. Their character shines with integrity, compassion, empathy, understanding, perspective, respect for all, and a deep sense of responsibility.
They will listen to the broken hearts and bodies of those they serve because they too, have been broken. They will listen until everyone has a chance to speak.
Listening, in and of itself, is healing.
"Listen… to change yourself, spark your moral imagination, soften your hardened edges,
and open yourself to the world. When we fail to listen to those the world excludes, we lose the possibility of solving problems that matter most to all of us.
But when we succeed at listening with all our attention and empathy, we have a chance to set others and ourselves free." - Jacqueline Novogratz
"Moral imagination means to view other peoples problems as if they were your own,
and to begin to discern how to tackle those problems." - Jacqueline Novogratz
"Moral imagination starts with empathy, but it does not content itself simply to feel another's pain. Empathy without action risks reinforcing the status quo." - Jacqueline Novogratz
I have made a lifetime of studying empathy and feeling that I am an empathetic person. I now move from empathy to compassion. My dear friend, Krista Leh, has taught me that compassion is empathy in action. The question that I work to answer each day is; "How do I put my empathy for you into action? How can I be compassionate today?"
I can be compassionate by studying the truth from all perspectives, standing up for and speaking for justice and respect for everyone, making ethical and moral decisions, pointing out our common humanity, offering opportunities, and showing dignity and love for all.
Our nation is dangerously divided. Inequality and prejudice poor from our streets and neighborhoods to our highest national offices. We are all part of "One nation under God". For our nation to be "indivisible with liberty and justice for all", we must remember our shared humanity. We are each connected in the web of life. Ultimately, what we do to another, we do to ourselves. No one is free until everyone is free.
We must focus on individual and common dignity. We must make our lives a service to others. We are in need of caring, compassionate, courageous, and empathetic leaders. Leaders who believe they are here to serve. We need men and women of character. Character that was built over years of commitment to dreams that were bigger than themselves. Character that was built on ethics, morality, common decency and truth. Character and servant leadership are not some idealistic dream.
We must be prepared to commit our lives to service. We will find the joy in helping others find their passion. Our joy will come in the good we have offered, the ideas that have created physical and emotional safety for all, in the lives which we have helped transform.
Our health and well-being will be present in the people we have loved, in the children we have helped grow, and in the communities we have improved.
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely
rearranging their prejudices."
- William James
We must be willing to listen to each other's story. When we know each other's story, our prejudices dissipate.
Each of us has a unique story. Each of us has explored a different life journey. There is great danger in only knowing and listening to a single story.
Nature shows us that diversity always wins. Our strength is in community. Our common unity is our only chance of survival.
It is time for a course correction. We must find our North Star.
The North Star is our human values of love, compassion, empathy, and kindness.