is not always an easy task.
I shared something on my facebook wall yesterday that prompted a discussion and was for the most part met with opposition. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as it was ultimately my intention (not to receive opposition but to garner a discussion). I had wanted to open up the floor for discussion but what ensued ultimately did not please me, made me feel kinda ‘icky and embarrassed, actually. It made me doubt myself, my convictions and my very truth, as I knew it in my soul. It seems that as of late, as I become ever more the activist and advocate, I am met with this same reaction. When forced to examine my intent I find this: that part of me longs to get people to open their eyes, view a different perspective, my perspective, a perspective I feel is vital if we are ever to really see a change for the better. But it is just that; my perspective. Even if my intention is also this: to promote a family life led with more peace, freedom, love and respect for all. It is a noble intention and all of those things, good things, but I realized today that in treading the path as an activist/advocate one must walk a very thin line between inspiring others to change and ultimately forcing your truth upon them.
I have in recent years become someone who is very passionate about speaking my truth ultimately because I feel my truth has benefitted my life immensely. My desire to educate others about the benefits of the radical unschooling/peaceful parenting philosophy is because I wish to see others benefit as I do. BUT, my truth is really only my truth and it is not my place (nor my will, I now see) to push that truth onto anyone else. This is where I, as an advocate and activist, must find a balance between sharing what I feel is a valuable perspective and my need to change the world with respecting the place and the truth of others.
When I seek to define those terms and where I fit into them more accurately here is what I find:
An activist is a person who campaigns for some kind of social change. When you participate in protesting against something, you’re an activist. Someone who’s actively involved in a protest or a political or social cause can be called an activist.*
As a noun, advocate (AD-v?-kit) can mean a person who represents someone’s interests. It can also mean someone who supports or works toward a particular course of action, as in “an advocate for civil rights.” The verb advocate (AD-v?-kate) means “to argue for” or “to publicly recommend”*
As an activist, I can stand very strongly in protest against something.
But as an advocate, I will surely stand very strongly in favor of/for something.
My facebook post yesterday was written from the position of an activist. I referenced an article that I felt portrayed and encouraged the wrong sort of parenting. It was another one of those articles focusing on the need to “put your foot down” and be tough with your kids. It may have been presented in more of a light-hearted manner but I felt cloaked the bigger issues of the need to control our children rather than simply guiding them. It was the old “be the parent, not the friend” argument with the notion that if you were to be seen as the “mean mom”, you were most certainly doing something right. It was definitely something I was against. And so as the activist I protested. I posted the article link with this simple phrase: “I sincerely hope that this is not for real. . . Where is the LOVE?”
I got three comments. All in support of the article. The first person asking what it was I found wrong with the list as she was 100 percent in agreement with it. And after sharing my views in a comment, two others responded in opposition (though maybe slightly in my favor in some things, I couldn’t tell). And this has been my experience before. Being someone who feels so compelled to change the world for better, it can be hard to take. After sitting in the hurt for a bit, considering putting my advocacy/activism to rest, and even entertaining the idea that maybe it doesn’t even matter what I do, I put my ego aside and I asked myself why that was. Why was the response negative when I had set out to instill positive? I think I know why.
Posting in the activist role, I had put myself up against something. I made the statement with my actions that I was in opposition. I thereby attracted opposition. I chose to stand against someone and rightfully what I got then, was people responding against me. Of course, I received negative. I put myself in the position of negating someone else’s truth and attracted exactly what I should have.
So, what if I were to instead take the advocate’s role? What if instead of stating all the reasons I was against something, I had simply refrained from linking to the article and taken the opportunity to share all the reasons my truth is my truth, shared all the positive things it has brought to my life? Instead of playing the activist against something, what if I played the advocate, in favor and for something?
Your truth is your truth and while you have every right to believe in it, find solace in it and ultimately to share it with the world, your delivery in doing so makes all the difference. The deliverance may just be what determines how it will be received. My intention is to impassion others but not rile them up. My goal is to inspire change but not at the expense of raising others up against me or worse yet, intimating that their truth is of no value. Besides, in speaking your truth isn’t it most likely that there will always be others who will not see it as such and no matter what you do will oppose it in favor of their own truth as they know it? This does seem to be the opinion of many of whom I would consider to be history’s great thinkers, so perhaps there is something to that.
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”~Arthur Schopenhauer (German philosophist)
“All great changes are preceded by chaos”~Deepak Chopra
“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary.” ~Albert Einstein
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” ~Winston Churchill
I hope that the words of these men can be found to be true. It fortifies me to believe that though initially I may find my truth opposed, I can still make a difference in sharing my truth.
OR PERHAPS it is more aptly and simply this:
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Maybe, it ultimately doesn’t matter what you do. The music you hear or the rhythm by which you choose to live your life may always just be that, your music, your rhythm, your truth. There will always be others dancing to their own beat. That is their right just as much as it is yours. It means that whenever you dare to strike out and dance your own dance, and especially if it is a unique dance, you will be noticed and opposed by the masses who seem to all hear the same exact beat, a different beat from yours.
And so we come back to THIS:
“When you dance to your own rhythm, people may not understand you; they may even hate you. But mostly they will wish they had the courage to do the same.”~unknown
There will always be those who refuse to join us in our causes. I accept that but since I don’t see myself giving up the dance as activist and advocate, now maintain that if it increases my odds of reaching others and promoting a positive change, I will tailor my deliverance of my truth in the best way for it to be received and perhaps understood. On this path, my task is to be at peace with that opposition I will still no doubt receive. And to remain focused on the support I gain from those treading the path with me; those who hear the same drum beat, those with whom I share the same truth. The opposition will surely not stop me from speaking my truth.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
It no longer suits me to be the activist pushing others to see the errors of their ways and make a change. Rather it is my continued hope that, as an advocate, I will encourage those already on this same path and perhaps inspire others (perhaps even those against me) merely by my positive words and actions. It is my hope that in sharing THIS, this imperfect piece of my humanity and struggle, I have already done so.
LOVE and LIGHT
After sharing the above and then thinking on it a bit more I was reminded of something, a little something that I think if I were to keep in mind, would help this process along . . .
The Second Agreement (according to the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz)-
“Don’t take anything personally.”
“When you take things personally, then you feel offended and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflicts. You make something big out of something so little, because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong. You may also try hard to be right by giving them your own opinions. In the same way, whatever you feel and do is just a projection of your own personal dream, a reflection of your own agreements. What you say, what you do, and the opinions you have are according to agreements you have made– and these opinions have nothing to do with me.”
This is totally how I felt when that little debate occurred on facebook. This is not how I want to be. Looking back on it, I see now it wasn’t even really such a big deal but it was important and it was necessary in order to be able to come to this place where I stand now. It is, like most everything we encounter, a learning experience and an important step in my growth. That little encounter has led to such an awareness in so many ways. And in turn, growth. From activist to advocate to human being.
*definitions taken from the following site: http://www.vocabulary.com/