COURAGE AND COMPASSION IN DIFFICULT TIMES
A dear friend and gifted minister recently shared these words with me:
If we have any hope of transforming the world and changing ourselves, we must be bold enough to step into our discomfort, brave enough to be clumsy there, and loving enough to forgive ourselves and each other. May we be granted the strength to be so bold, so brave, and so loving.
He was referring to deeply challenging work that the congregation he serves is currently facing, but his words have stayed with me as a beautiful description of the courage and compassion that any deep transformation requires. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have come back into my mind as an approach for finding our path through this situation that is transforming our world before our eyes.
BOLD ENOUGH TO STEP INTO OUR DISCOMFORT
The degree of uncertainty about what the future holds feels as high as its ever been, at least in my lifetime. For me – and I imagine for many of us – uncertainty creates the drive to learn, to understand, and to overcome. Perhaps, in this case, stepping into the discomfort of not knowing can create a different opportunity. If your work – like ours – involves large gatherings of people, you may find yourself with some free time on your hands as those events are cancelled. What bold move have you been putting off? Maybe it’s time to finally write that book, repair that relationship, or delve deeply into that interesting research that could add a new dimension to your work. If your work involves supporting those affected by this virus or its effects, like health care workers or travel insurance providers, you may find yourself overwhelmed with work while also trying to figure out how to keep yourself and those you love healthy. Boldly stepping into your discomfort may look very different – perhaps it’s seeking collaboration from unexpected sources, or drawing on support networks in new ways.
BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE CLUMSY THERE
We often think about bravery or courage in the context of some sort of battle – it evokes the image of putting on your armor, grabbing your weapon, and charging into battle. What type of courage is called for during challenging and uncertain times? No doubt we need brave and decisive decisions – and we’re seeing examples of those made by many leaders who are choosing health and safety over financial gain. As we think about how to positively impact those around us, there’s another type of courage that comes to mind. The courage to be vulnerable and transparent – which may look clumsy at times – but is grounded in the desire to keep us connected to our humanity and to each other.
What brave actions can you pursue during these times? What opportunities to live your core values and positively impact your family, coworkers, and community are arising around you? A local community volunteer here has identified the need to provide meals for children who rely on school lunches while the local school systems are closed, and is rallying groups of volunteers to ensure that these kids aren’t forgotten amidst this chaos.
LOVING ENOUGH TO FORGIVE OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER
During these unprecedented times, there is an unprecedented need for compassion – for ourselves and for each other. As the Dalai Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” A dear friend who passed away last year always reminded me to make compassion my default response, because you never know what someone is going through. The person who cut you off on the freeway may be rushing to be present at the birth of their first child.
As we all learn to navigate this new and changing environment, we will most definitely make mistakes. Our mistakes will sometimes cause harm to ourselves and others. We will require compassion and forgiveness, and we will need to extend it to others.
Being bold, brave, and loving during these times could also mean finding new ways to develop and deepen relationships, especially when our old ways of staying connected are being disrupted. If your work team is moving to a remote work setup, think about the ways you can maintain a sense of close teamwork and comraderie. Some creative colleagues of mine have brainstormed these simple ideas:
- Create a team playlist of everyone’s favorite music to work at home to. You may not be together, but you’ll be sharing the experience of listening to it.
- Set aside dedicated time during your web meetings or conference calls just to connect and check in on each others’ lives.
- Find ways to lighten the mood. One colleague gave her team PTR cards – “permission to relax”
What are some of the ways you are staying connected with your team? Your family? Your community?