There is much in the news about demands for change and an end to discrimination of all types and the inequities that exist in our society. As I look back over quotes that I save from the Jack‘s Winning Words blog, two stood out as seeming to go together to provide a good starting point for accomplishing the needed changes.
“If you were to change the world, start with yourself.” (Gandhi)
- AND –
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” (Mary Engelbreit)
People almost never look in the mirror and honestly say to themselves – “You are a part of the problem.” It is always “they” or “them” who are at fault – the bigots and haters that we see on the news. Yet it is those who remain silent and let things go on that facilitate that bigotry or wrong behavior. The bully who goes unchallenged by his/her peers that continues to bully others. The bigot who refuses to perform a service for, or sell a product to, a gay couple will continue to discriminate. The police who treat people of color differently will continue to harass and kill with impunity. If we see it and don’t say or do something, then we are a part of the problem and not of the solution.
In our prayers for forgiveness at church we pray that God will forgive us for the things that we have done and the things left undone. It is in those things left undone that we become part of the problem. Today’s quotes direct us to spend more time in reflection on our own thoughts and actions (or inaction). A good start is to examine how the nightly news stories about the demonstrations against police brutality make you feel.
Most white viewers likely have little frame of reference for empathy with the black demonstrators, unless they have been stopped and perhaps roughly treated by the police sometime in their past. For the most part, white people don’t view a stop by the police as a life-threatening event – it’s just an inconvenience. Compare that to the interviews that you see on the news about how blacks view interactions with the police. Their fears are palpable.
Perhaps then, your lack of empathy or even your indifference to the obvious issues that exist for people of color is a part of the problem- part of the things left undone. If you feel like you can’t, by yourself, change the problem, then take Mary Engelbreit’s advice and change the way that you think about it. Let that change in thinking also drive changes in your life. Not everyone can join in the marches and demonstrations; however, everyone can vote and elect new officials who will affect the changes that are needed. Everyone can change the way that they interact with people who are different from them. Often, it is just that interaction itself which makes the difference.
Heeding Gandhi’s advice means starting by recognizing where you are today and giving yourself the goals to be someplace else tomorrow. What can you change about yourself to make you the person that you’d really like to be? What can you do to get yourself out of the safe comfort zone of indifference to the plight of others? Start by changing the way that you think about it.
Now, that’s real change.