I Promise to be Candid

 I first wrote this piece in June 2016; if anything things have got worse, not better. There’s more division, less acceptance, more hatred, less love. It feels important to share it again because even if it makes one person stop and think, it will have been worth it.

I can promise to be candid, not, however to be impartial [1]

 The above-mentioned quote from Goethe continues to strike a chord.  There’s been yet more ugliness, lies and lack of compassion since the referendum and the UKs march towards Brexit (whether we’ll ever get there is anyone’s guess).  We expect our MPs and other narrators of the debate to be impartial (and I use the word narrators with strong emphasis).  “We just want the facts” we hear regularly.  Outside the economic reporting (on what has passed and therefore only best guesses about the future) there are no 'facts' just opinion.

Every time we read something, say something, react to something, we are doing so from our own position, through our own ears and eyes.  We can never be impartial – we are made up of our thoughts, experiences (childhood through to present day), and of course our feelings and emotions about those experiences.

During the EU Referendum debate I listened with interest to an impassioned north easterner talk about why leaving the EU was the right thing to do because of their fishing livelihood being decimated through EU quotas.  Their narration, their history, their emotion; it is so entangled with their everyday experiences; for what they have lost, for what has past, and protection of what might be if we don’t leave.

These are not my experiences, my emotions, my narrations. My emotion is caught up in the metaphor of boundaries going up around us, rather than creating a world that is borderless, at one, connected.

I am lucky.  My training and experience through working as a coach has enabled me to be critical of my own thought processes, be mindful of ‘my stuff’, be cautious of my internal narrator, and above all else be empathetic with others. To see through others’ eyes; hear with others’ ears. I still don’t always get it right.

So what is the antidote to all this? In my experience and what I know with all my heart, is that it is love. Peter Megginson, my tutor during Masters in Coaching once said, “you don’t have to like all your clients, but you do have to love them”.

"There is only one passion which satisfies man’s need to unite himself with the world, and to acquire at the same time a sense of integrity and individuality, and this is love. Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.”  (2 Erich Fromm , Sane Society)

 I wonder what it would take to see LOVE as a mission or value in our organisations?

 I wonder what it would take if our governments put love, compassion and collaboration in their manifestos?

What are you thinking right now about that? 

We have a lot to learn about how we think first. If we don’t realise that our experiences and thoughts create our ‘truth’, how can we ever achieve tolerance or love.  Love isn’t easy. It isn’t the fanciful, romantic love we see on our TV screens. Love is a regard for another, despite their differences, despite their faults, despite that they are not 'like us'. This takes courage. This takes vulnerability. To admit that there is something beyond what we know to be “truth”.

What if we don’t realise that someone else’s voice is worthy, will we continue to shout louder and louder; become addicted to being right? Or at the extreme end, kill and brutalise in the name of our truth?

What if we don’t ever realise that there is no right, might we never achieve a shared, co-created way forward?

If we constantly perceive that our story is the only truth, then we prevent tolerance, we prevent empathy, we prevent love. We prevent society - unity.

We teach a right and wrong model from the moment we go to school, a large proportion of our organisations are ran in the same way, and our country is divided into them and us.  It’s all about better than, more than, stronger than, separate to, different from… comparison, difference and hierarchy.  Some would say that this is natural. I believe it is natural to love and be connected. Are we in danger of losing this ability? I do hope not.

Even the way we feed ourselves is built on a narrative of ‘we are worth more as a species’ therefore it’s ok to slaughter millions of animals every day.  Why are we then surprised when this story and these values are perpetuated within our own species?

I appreciate this is a gloomy post, but there are countless atrocities that happen in our world every day. When will it be time to say enough?

So my challenge for you all today is: STOP, connect with what you are thinking and feeling, critique your thoughts and feelings.  What experiences and past stories are creating your truth?  Could there be another way? How can we help others do this? Not by telling them they’re wrong that’s for sure. Not by shouting louder. Not by snuffing out the difference. Not by building bigger walls.

We have the power to be the most creative, beautiful, adaptable, loving species there is. Could you hold out your hand to another with warmth, compassion, curiosity instead of distrust or scepticism, particularly if you see behaviour that is distasteful to you? Appreciate all that we are, individually and collectively. It's ok to be different. But we must also love the 'we'.

So, I'm going to be candid. I only know one thing to be true. All living things are worthwhile, are connected and deserve love.

But don’t believe me, I’m not impartial.

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves" Thomas Merton

[1] Goethe, J.F. von., Sketchy, Doubtful and Incomplete Jottings, Penguin Classics 2015;

[2] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sane-Society-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415270987