We Need to Build New Ways of Being Human and in Pain Together

If your practice of feminism includes publicly scapegoating a woman/person for the personal choices of others and framing the scapegoating by deliberately omitting many relevant facts to elevate your own story, then we have different understandings of feminism.

If your practice of social justice includes diminishing the dignity (the inherent respect and value) of another human, or mob driven justice of any kind, or taking a stand that social media call outs bring actual justice to anyone, then we have different understandings of social justice.

If your practice of equity includes behaving as if your story is superior to another’s, or your pain is superior to another’s, or you are superior to others in any way, then we have a different understanding of equity.

If your practice of respecting sovereignty includes defining another person’s experience or story for them, or claiming another person’s story for yourself (if it is not your direct experience it is not your story to tell or claim), or telling a person what they have to specifically do or say to continue to be of value, or that someone owes you something for choices you make of your own volition, or that a person has to do what anyone else says at all beyond the law, then we have different understandings of respecting sovereignty.

If your practice of consent includes publishing deliberately selected pieces of private communication of any kind, or violating a collective agreement that what happens in a shared space is confidential, then we have different understandings of consent (and I have to set a boundary to not communicate privately with you because you have proven yourself unsafe since your practice of confidentiality is conditional).

And having these differences is ok, because I respect your sovereignty, your unique experience of life, and your on-going development as a human. I will not show contempt for you by telling you that you are wrong (which implies my perceptions are superior to yours because what I see is the absolute truth) or that you no longer deserve to belong because we see things differently. I honor your inherent value, your complexity and contradictions, and your on-going imperfect evolution.

I also recognize we may not have the same definitions for our words and concepts so we may need to ask questions and work towards shared understanding to avoid harmful assumptions, and that our reactions/responses are *always* framed by our personal experience. I believe in few universal truths and that we each hold our own pieces to the truth puzzle (one of they many reasons we need one another).

And should others tell me what I should think about you, I choose to honor my own direct experiences with you over gossip, rumors, and stories about you. If I am in doubt, I will reach out to talk to you directly to find out your experience and understanding of what took place or I will sit with the uncertainty. I will not make assumptions or make up my own stories about your intentions, your meaning, or your experience to fill in the blanks and alleviate my discomfort with not knowing.

I will openly discuss all of these ideas with you, and I will set boundaries should you make your comments about diminishing me rather than challenging my ideas. I always welcome you to expand my understanding and I will thoughtfully consider your perspective whether or not it changes my mind.

Whether you want to call it civility, mutual respect, or practicing nonviolence, I believe the only way to make actual change as a collective is to agree to communicate in ways that maintain respect, dignity, and sovereignty (which are all separate from feeling emotions like anger or grief; in my experience emotions can be communicated with civility, especially if one takes a moment to breathe). If we can’t even talk about the oppressive systems that deeply hurt us ALL without hurting and harming one another, or actively repair when hurt and harm occurs, we will never be able to move toward healing and transformation of the systems themselves. We will remain in our pain and wounding forever, ripping open one another’s scars over and over again.

If we hope to make a new culture, then we need to make new ways of being human and in pain together, beginning with how we talk to each other about our mutually complex experiences and heartaches.

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