I can see the fear, sitting just on the horizon. The same place that fear always sits. It’s the fear of creating harm. If I really shed all of the control, I will create damage. If I release these chains, some self-imposed, some taught to me by those that loved and cared for me, an ego-shaped beast will wreak havoc on the world.
I know that believing I can best my ego is naive at best, and arrogant ignorance at worst. It’s a fools errand — like believing I could somehow hold my own hand, see my own eyeballs, or bite my own teeth. And on some level I can even distinguish that that fear is really just another tool of my ego.
But still, it remains.
Instead I hold on tight. Like an enemy whose forehead I have my hands on, I’m safe as long as I keep my hands outstretched and maintain pressure. As soon as I let go, I’m in danger. I wonder what’s predictable from this place? How does life go for me if I continue to keep my hands out, flexed, resisting?
Well, first of all, I forever become victim to it. I force this into my blindspot. I can’t allow the possibility of myself causing harm, regardless of intention, and so I have to deny it and blind myself to it when it inevitably does happen. I can’t turn around and take a sober look at what’s happened, because I can’t really own what’s happened. I have a vested interest in relating to myself as someone who is never gotten by his ego — someone who never causes harm.
What I resist forever persists. The best it gets is that I forever manage to fight my “noble” battle, and keep the monkey off my back (by keeping it on my front). As long as I’m wrestling with it, at least I can hold myself as noble. I’m not a hypocrite. I’m not a perpetrator.
But of course I am. All of us are. That’s inevitable. There’s no escaping our humanity, it’s what we’re made of. Despite my best intentions, I’m going to find myself in situations where I’ve cause harm to someone. Where I’ve hurt them, in spite of my very best attempts to avoid doing so.
How do I want to be in those situations? Protected? Guarded? In refusal and denial, with my arms outstretched? How could I possibly have hurt you? I am working so hard to ensure that I don’t do that thing.
White fragility. That’s what this reminds me of.
An inability to be in a conversation about racism, which then makes it impossible to take an honest look at the ways we’re already being racist — not by intention, just because that’s the world we live in.
I have a fragility around hypocrisy and causing harm. An inability to be resilient in the face of being the cause of those things. Instead, I’m rigidly opposed to them; rigid being the operative word.
What if I released that and simply committed to being responsible for the times when I do cause harm, and clean up the mess it creates? What if it’s okay to cause harm sometimes, and in fact, the real work is coming to terms with it sooner, rather than later, so that I can clean up my mess and get back on track sooner.
The longer I have to keep myself from taking a look at what is so, the longer it takes before I can get my bearings and put myself back on the path I’m committed to walking.
What I can tell you is that seems a lot easier to me. But scarier. Because that’s walking toward the horizon, and that’s where the fear sits.
Am I willing to be with the intimacy created when I allow someone to share how I’ve hurt them? Am I willing to shoulder that with them, so I can really get my impact, as a man and a leader?