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Sunday, March 22, 2015

TED Talks, Empathy, and Courage

I've been listening to TED Talks nonstop these days. THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD ONES. One of my most recent favorite talks (from one of my most recent favorite people) is by a man named Bryan Stevenson. He's a human rights lawyer and the founder of Equal Justice Initiative, a non profit organization that seeks to challenge racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. My mom gave me his book called Just Mercy.. and I'm struggling to put it down. This guy gets it. 

There are people out there doing work like Bryan Stevenson. Fighting for good things, passing hope to those living in hopelessness. His words, his work, encourage me so much. He's given his life to bring value to people who don't have a voice, to show compassion, to tell people they're worthy. He's sold out to human dignity and identity. He's helped given me perspective. He gets it, he gets it. 

And so I'll be honest with you all. 
It's been a challenging past few weeks. I have let things steal joy, I have massively let pride cloud my perspective. Even now, I sit and I try not to cry because the mind just got so confused. Self examination has brought some shockingly hard realizations. I've asked myself the hard questions WHY and am startled at what my heart has revealed. All the worst versions of myself. But with it, it's not all been bad. Because after the crucifixion comes resurrection, am I right? 

So, here are some things I am reminding myself are true about me, and these very things I know to be true about you too. 

I am believed in. I had one of my most valuable pieces of corner look me in the eye this weekend and say, I believe in you. And at a moment when I wasn't sure I believed in myself anymore, I had really let myself and those around me down, this kind and gentle corner said, yes. but I believe in you. What grace. I'm convinced those are four of the most powerful words in the English language.

I am not alone. There are people surrounding me (and you) who want to douse your shame and all your things with empathy. Another fav, Brene Brown, says these words in her TED Talk (another one to check out). She says this, "If we're going to find our way back to each other, we have to know empathy. Empathy is the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words to hear when we're in struggle is "me too." If we're going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path." yes yes yes. There are people within arm's length who want to look you in the eye and say me too (another thing my corner did for me this weekend). And then there are the others who might not be gifted in empathy, and that is okay. They are still your people to the very core and they love you and they are good at other things (aren't we all). Pull those people in too. 

What I think is liability is actually asset. This one is the hardest for me to swallow sometimes. I need this one repeated the most. But what I'm finding to be true (GRACE UPON GRACE) is that the very things about myself that often make me cringe are really the very things that bring value. The way I'm made, the way I'm wired, the way I operate - ugh I can't be the only that thinks Lord have mercy, why do I act/think/respond this way??  But, what if they are value? What if my emotion is value? What if God actually knew what he was doing (ha) when he created you and me and these things about us actually have the potential to bring life? What if there really was a choice and the me that is me isn't inherently a roadblock, but only unless I allow it to be?

Give yourself grace, it really is all okay. Ha! Oh, how good this is. It's okay! Oh yes, people, it's okay. Now pick yourself up and brush yourself off and LET'S DO THIS THING. 

You're probably wondering what Bryan Stevenson has to do with all of this. I've got a point, I'll end with Bryan. He tells this story in his TED Talk (you can watch it here) about hanging out with Rosa Parks (oh you know, no big deal). She asks him what he does, what the Equal Justice Initiative is all about, and he starts reeling off his organization and what his vision is and what he's trying to do, what he's trying to change. 

And when he finishes, Ms. Parks says to him, mhmm. That's going to make you tired, tired, tired. 

And then another woman leans in close to Bryan and says, and that's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave. 

Be brave, friends. Be brave. 
Pass courage to one another. Lift up your head. It's a good thing you're doing. Let's keep doing it together. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Perspective and How to See Things Differently

I'm finally going to say something I never thought I'd say.

I think I like Amaro just as much as I liked Stabler.

Yes, Law and Order SVU. The first 13 years or so, Detective Stabler faithfully served beside my girl, Olivia Benson. Then abruptly, he leaves at the end of one season and is replaced by Nick Amaro at the beginning of another. I figured Amaro and I would never get along. Because all the things. But now, I think I love him. 

Here's why. 

This is what usually happens. The SVU detectives all settle in around a crime, they do their investigating, they interview all the people, they discuss all the things. They land somewhere with it, they think they've got it. It's over, they've seen what they can see. And then Amaro always comes in and he speaks up and he says, BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS? Have we thought about this? Have we thought about this angle? How can we look at this in a new way?


He always sees things differently. And the SVU crew follows Amaro's perspective and it usually almost always leads them to the truth. He helps them see. And he's known for that, it's his reputation. Any time someone brings a new light on a case that already feels closed, they say are you pulling an Amaro on us?

I love it so much. I can't tell you how much I love it.

One of my team members always talks about seeing differently. He articulates it so well. We help students see themselves differently, see God differently, see people differently. I love that visual, it helps me see.

Especially lately, I've really needed help seeing. The past week or so, I have literally walked into meetings with co-workers and said "I just need perspective, can you help me see?" I can only see so much and most often I land in fear, and fear always gives a distorted picture. I can only see what the headlights show and sometimes even that is shadowy. Sometimes I can even see what's not even real! But there are so many other perspectives. The real, the truth, is out there. 

It's one of the things that makes my corner so great. I look ahead anxiously with blinders on, sometimes shrouded with fear, but they see so many other things all around me. And they see it with clear eyes. From up ahead, from what's behind, from the right, from the left. They enclose me with their vision, all the way around. And they tell me, "here is what's real, here is what we see, here is what is really going on. This is what we see in you, here is where we can see you going."

They say, you don't have to see things through any kind of lens of fear or confusion.
If you can't see, we will help you.
We will help you see differently. To see with hope, with light, with grace, with confidence. 

It's what Real or Not Real really is. Silencing lies and seeing differently. Something can look so real and scary and suffocating and you think oh, this is just too overwhelming. Too many things. But when you invite your people in and they say, no no no! That's just fear trying to disguise itself as a real. This is actually really beautiful! One step at a time. 

It is hard to articulate the real, true beauty of it. The freedom that a new eyesight brings. A season of change, transition, uncertainty is really opportunity and asset. The hard things are the good things. They tell you, God cares enough about you to care so much about your character. Oh man, I can get on board with that. 

So, my word to you, my friends. Invite others into your hard thing. If it's just the beginning or it's the 11th hour and you're crawling toward the finish line, I promise you perspective will renew your mind. We cannot see when we are in it, oh but we have people who can. Name your real or not reals. Speak them out loud. Fight the bad wolf by feeding the good.  There is a battle going on and you need help fighting it.

Your life and your story is a wonderful gift. Let's do this together.