Navigating through Troubled Waters

I watched a courageous and thought-provoking video by Brene Brown the other day.  She was talking about white privilege, and one thing she said made my heart stop – If you do not participate in the dialogue, it is a reflection of privilege.  We opt out because we can.  We opt out because we are not directly impacted.  That is privilege.  There is no doubt that we are living in turbulent times.  Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK are marching in cities across the United States.  Tensions are running high between the White House and North Korea, making everyone shaky.  Black Americans are at great risk of being killed by the police, yet many people are asleep behind their privilege or are using it as a shield.  Rhetoric between differing factions is hostile and threatening – no longer civil – even within the houses of our governing bodies.  Just reading this paragraph has probably increased your stress.  Writing it has certainly increased mine!  

How do we bridge this divide over the troubled, turbulent waters?  How and when do we stand up?  How can we join the dialogue?  How do you wrap your head around this so that you gain the clarity to assist your children in navigating safely through these times?  Here are five suggestions, and all of them begin inside of you.

Choose the Peaceful Path

Make a conscious choice for peace and non-violence.  Read about those who have successfully chosen that path before, such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi.  Read about those who are choosing it now, such as Malala Yousafzai and Scilla Elworthy.  Study Non-Violent Communication so that your language reflects peace.  Develop your compassion and peace-building skills by participating in a course such as Freedom to Be: An Embracing Life Experience.  Invest in expanding your own peace, consciously. 


Victor Frankl said that between stimulus and response, there is a space.  Within that space is your ability to choose your response.  That ability to choose IS your personal freedom.  Practice pausing.  Pause when your child doesn’t pick up his legos.  Pause when your spouse is late to dinner.  Pause when you watch the news.  This doesn’t mean that you ignore the behavior.  It means pause and then hold others accountable.  The pause allows you the creativity and curiosity to address whatever is happening from a place of responsibility rather than blame.  

Look at How You are Alike

This is something you can do when you pause or at any time you choose.  We are all more alike than we are different.  If we focus on how we are alike, we will sidestep blame.  Focusing on how we are alike fosters humility.  When your child doesn’t pick up his legos, think of the time you didn’t pick up after yourself.  When your spouse is late, remember a time when you were late.  When you watch the news and see a march by white supremacists, remember when you judged someone without really knowing them, felt superior because you “were right”, or didn’t say anything when someone was treated harshly or unfairly.  This doesn’t mean you ignore the behavior of your child or your spouse or the white supremacist.  Looking at how you are alike means that you will address it from a more tenderhearted place.  You will stand a better chance of being heard. 

Meditate and be Mindful

Meditating and living mindfully will keep you present.  It will prepare you for “the pause” and for seeing how you are more like others than different.  It will calm your mind, sooth the itch to judge, and allow you to see things from a broader perspective.  Take the time to meditate.  Slow down and enjoy being mindful.

Talk about What You Value within Your Family and Community

Have family discussions about what you value and hold dear.  What is it that you navigate by – justice, truth, honesty, kindness, authenticity, helping others?  Discussions will clarify things for you and your children.  What you value will be your rudder through the troubled waters.

The good news in these turbulent times is that things are on the table.  We will have positive outcomes from having conversations about privilege, shame, accountability, and justice.  As Brene Brown says, they may not be perfect conversations.  The discussions may be rocky.  They are, though, the bridge that unites us.