Originally posted in 2020
As we watch the party conventions these past two weeks, we are thinking about how spirit, compassion and humanity – or the lack thereof – influence and shape us.
Michelle Obama said last week: first, we must listen to each other. Only then, as Linda’s work has shown, can we build vibrant, diverse and thriving communities grounded in justice, inclusion and care for each other and the earth.
The Spirit in Action team has been thinking a lot about love lately – what role does love play in our work together and our work with others?
About ten years ago, I spoke at Georgia Southern University. On the way to the conference from the Savannah airport, I had a conversation with my taxi driver, Tim, about people he referred to as “illegal immigrants.” Tim informed me he was a member of the Tea Party. I took a deep breath and remembered the only way for people to change is for us to be in conversation with them – not in an adversarial way, but listening deeply and explaining our understanding in a way that is filled with love and curiosity.
Sometimes, we forget to express love and understanding to folks with different viewpoints from ours. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m far from being a fan of the Tea Party. However, I know from many life experiences that by not limiting my interactions, friendships and conversations, I can reach people and see major shifts happen by just offering love, questions, listening and understanding. In this way, I have no problem saying what I believe, even though it’s an opposite perspective.
Without love, we cannot sustain ourselves and each other in the work for change. It is a critical element. Roger Harrison, a friend and author of Consultant’s Journey: A Dance of Work and Spirit, says this about love: “By failing to examine and acknowledge the pervasiveness of love in shaping behavior in the workplace, we only prevent ourselves from accessing its powerful healing and creative aspects.“
A quote from a workshop flyer that Roger and other trainers handed out on “Love in the Workplace” captures the essence for me:
Organizations are tapping every resource they have today to cope with challenges of sustainability, employee engagement, global competition, worldwide financial crises, resource constriction – and the need to innovate. Organizations need to look for every possible edge. Yet, most are leaving a powerful asset on the table – perhaps the most powerful – love.
We can’t afford to leave this powerful asset untouched and unused when we work for change. That is why I always sign my letters, “Peace, Power and Love.”
When Tim and I parted after our 30-minute taxi ride, he asked if he could pick me up when I returned to the airport. I knew something had shifted for him. And for me too. I loved and understood Tim.
Muriel Strand just shared with us her introduction to the final chapter of Bill Moyer’s book, “Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements.” She writes:
Linda Stout, founder of Spirit in Action, reports that in her national survey, grassroots activists across America said that spirituality was one of the most critical things missing in activism. Although this is not a term that has been much accepted in social movement culture, it is understandable why it is so strongly missed. Spirit refers to the strong inner urge for meaning in our lives, an urge that involves a deep, positive connection with each other, the planet, and an evolving universe. Compassion, kindness, love, equality, support, and caring, therefore, are qualities of spirit. They bring us back in touch with our true nature. When we experience these qualities we tend to feel more fulfilled, joyful, energized, and happy. These are also the qualities of the peaceful model that we seek.
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