The value of honoring others reaches beyond the static ways we show up in the world daily. I am a white, heterosexual, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gender female and have been since birth. And I am now a parent. And there are days when I enter the office a complete. Hot. Mess. On days I emerge from a winter weather wardrobe battle with my 9 year old, barely clinging to my sanity, I am welcomed into an arena of empathetic office mates. I am allowed to be in that space. And being held in support by these wonderful women, I am able to regroup, refocus and recommit to my work for the day. And my work is better for it.
We extend that understanding to our clients and partners. I got canceled on today. Twice. Not too long ago, that would have really pissed me off. “Who would have the audacity to waste my time like that?” “Clearly this person doesn’t value me.” “How disrespectful!” Today I take a different approach. “It’s cool.” We all have lives outside our work, or circumstances within our work which we can’t control. And sometimes we need to cancel. I try hard to honor people’s need to make decisions for themselves. It is not about me.
And who’s to say what is respectful? Would keeping a meeting with me put someone else in a place of disequilibrium? Depending on the culture from which we come, respect may look very different. A while ago I read an essay on white supremacy culture. (You can read it below). It made me pause, reflect, and reevaluate how I have shown up over the years. Have I been unwittingly feeding into systems that hold some people back while propelling others forward? Yes. Instead of protecting and promoting these norms of perfectionism, urgency, individualism…. I am trying to step back and recognize the ways in which others show up differently.
People everywhere honor how others show up. Here’s a great example of cultural awareness and adaptation by a parent whose kids attend a school with a diverse student-body:
Our school carnival is tonight.
We’ve been planning and working for a month.
We’ve invited all families to be a part.
This morning, one little 2nd grader informed me that her mamma is doing henna at the carnival.
This is complete news to me.
It’s not on the massive spreadsheet.
No one emailed or called or texted. …
This announcement did not throw me at all.
Totally culturally normal…just not MY culture.
I’m making a henna poster right now.
How can you clearly and succinctly name a value that is inclusive of the myriad ways people identify? Humans are complex. We put ourselves into categories based on race, ability, gender, religion, economic status, family structure, sexuality, age, ethnicity….. The number of boxes into which we sort people is endless.
Our needs and our clients’ needs are wide and varied. And though we each claim unique identities, we appreciate and learn from our differences and find commonalities on which to build. We strive to go out of the comfort zone of the familiar. We meet people where they are. We honor how people show up. And lift up all of who we and they are.
Questions to Consider:
- Do you use your culture’s values to evaluate others’? Is this fair?
- Is it possible to be inclusive and respect each person’s individuality at the same time?
- Where in our lives do we expect people to assimilate instead of bringing their true selves?
- How do you honor the identities and experiences of those different from you?
White Supremacy Culture. From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001. http://www.cwsworkshop.org/PARC_site_B/dr-culture.html