My dear, dear Readers,
Immediately after learning of the election results, I plunged into a deep grief, like after death of a loved one or a romantic break up. People find me exceptionally calm, but that night, I cratered.
This grief triggered some equally deep self-assessment. I reread a Martha Beck column on personal integrity that I had torn out of an Oprah magazine many months ago. She describes “personal integrity” as living in alignment with what we know, on a deep level, to be true.
Beck writes, “Depart from your truth…offer a fake smile, flatter your awful boss, marry for money, and you become two people: the truth knower and the actor. That’s duplicity…the real enemy of joy.
I believe this might account for an undercurrent of stress I have felt for many years. For you see, my dears, while I have always told my truth in this blog and my other writings, I have not told my whole truth. I was waiting for the time to be right.
You know my Silver Rule, “Avoid or minimize making others wrong,” as by arguing, blaming, etc. I couldn’t express my whole truth without stating facts or opinions that would be contrary to those of some readers. I could minimize the chance of wrong making, but I couldn’t avoid it totally.
I didn’t want to lose readers, I wanted to gain them. I didn’t want to lose any who might disagree with, and therefore feel made wrong by, my truth. I hoped to teach all readers to replace the resistance mechanisms hard-wired into the human brain—denial, rationalization and projection—with civil dialogue. So I left my deepest truths on the back burner, waiting till I had built more trust or more credibility or a larger following.
And I waited largely because I feared rejection by someone I love. A lot. Just typing the preceding sentence, my hands started to shake. That’s how much of a lot.
Martha Beck says that an “Integrity Cleanse,” living consistently with your truths, without exception, will draw disapproval, or maybe even attack. “You’ll certainly be afraid. Maybe sad and angry as well. But almost immediately, you’ll also feel an indescribable relief, as if a broken bone that healed badly has been reset in its correct alignment.”
Next year, I’ll be sixty-eight. If I don’t start telling my whole truth now, when will I start? How long should I deny myself the benefits to my spiritual, mental and physical health that greater personal integrity might bring? How long should I wait to share the things I most want to share? I don’t want to wait any longer to at least try the experiment.
But as a consensus, persuasion and communication expert, I know that speaking my truth doesn’t have to mean ranting or blurting things out without considering timing and choice of words. On the contrary, I want to model and teach others how to speak their truths in the least wrong-making way possible. That will also be the healthiest way for them and the most effective way.
I have IBS. When I resolved to find a way to start living consistently with my whole truth, even before I started putting the plan into action, for only about the third time in the last three months, I went all the next day without an attack of IBS cramps. Not only has this continued, but after living mostly on grains for about three months, I have been able to tolerate more fruit, veggies and poultry and still remain almost completely cramp free.
I don’t yet know what forms speaking my truth will take. In addition to this blog, I’m considering writing a third book, a memoire. My working title for now is From Grief to Integrity to Hope—The Persuasion Coach’s Journey.
But, I will tell you what speaking my truth won’t look like: I will not become a ranter. I know, from both professional and personal experience, that ranting does not give joy or a sense of integrity, but rather, just the opposite. I will use every ounce of communication skill I have to tell my truth in a manner that is respectful and as kind and non-wrong-making as I can fashion it. I will strive to model what I teach.
“They” tell us that it’s good for business to get hot-headed reactions to one’s blog. But my primary motive now is, not to grow business indiscriminately, but rather, to teach. So in the interest of nurturing my serious students, helping them feel safe reading my blog, here’s what I’ll do If others submmit comments that are hateful, insulting or otherwise unnecessarily wrong-making. Where practical, I will contact the person privately and suggest a modified wording that still makes their point. They can suggest further changes. If we can negotiate a mutually acceptable wording, then I will approve the comment for public viewing.
Now, here’s another piece of of my truth:
When I first realized I was going into a grief process, I sensed that this grief was different. I knew I would go through shock, denial, anger, etc., But I doubted that I would get through the final acceptance phase. I doubted that I would come out okay at the other end. I despaired on both personal and professional levels.
I never despaired when my youngest brother was lost in the Mississippi River and never recovered, or when Mom and Dad died. I didn’t despair when my life partner of over 20 years left me. But on election night, I despaired because I saw my country elect a man who has berated, slammed, ridiculed and told untruth about women, Hispanics, blacks, LGBTQs, and even handicapped people. A man who has modeled bigotry and ruthlessness in getting what he wants. A man who conducted his campaign in a manner I can’t describe without wrong-making.
I felt about half the voters preferred to vote for such a man than to vote for a woman. And not just any woman. A woman who was the closest thing to a moderate among all the candidates of both major parties. A woman who, whether or not one agrees with her positions, was the most highly experienced and qualified person ever to run for president, having served this country with distinction in the Senate, as Secretary of State, and having vicariously experienced the office of President through her spouse. And half the voters preferred a man who is not only what I stated above, but quite possibly the least qualified person ever to run for president.
I felt that, if a woman of Hillary Clinton’s stature, experience, and all the support she had, can be defeated by American acceptance of bigotry, what hope was there for a little peanut like me? A little peanut who had hoped, eventually, to teach a critical mass of people to get what they need from others in ways that build bridges, rather than burning them. All the time I had spent these 20+ years, trying to build toward a more feminine culture, and therefore, a more win-win consensus-building culture, seemed a waste.
On a deep visceral level, what I got out of the election results was a message that bigotry and hate are acceptable, or at least tolerable, now. Others got that message:
- A Hispanic woman client told me, red-eyed, about a male friend who voted for DT, and how she now wonders, “Is that how you think of me—as a pig, an eating machine, a nasty woman?”
- A community college instructor, and friend, wrote about his Hispanic and gay students who phoned to say they were too scared to come to class.
- A gay black man found this note on his car the morning after the election, “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.”
- Unitarians and Universalists (UUs) like me have a long history of championing the oppressed. Current efforts support blacks, LGBTQs, immigrants and others. One of the ministers of my congregation wrote that someone had driven a truck straight at her 20 year old child, who managed to dodge it, but was in fear of her life.
- A leadership and relationship coach of my acquaintance writes, “Yesterday, one client told me that her 16 year old babysitter is afraid to go to school. According to the girl, “The boys have a new thing. They call it, ‘Doing a Trump’. They run up to us and grab us by the pussy. My client noted that the girl was ‘matter of fact’ in her use of language that until recently was too vulgar for polite company. Further, none of the girls reported these abuses to the school authorities. For these teenagers, Trump has already normalized sexual assault. My client fears for the safety of her young daughter, but she also fears what her little son may become in this climate.”
All these people and many others, felt the same message that I did in the depths of my grief—that overt bigotry will now be tolerated in this country. Most of us reacted with fear and despair. A few reacted as if they had received an official green light to step up and act on their bigotry.
Mechanisms that were set in motion years ago, mechanisms that have gradually made bigotry seem acceptable, or at least tolerable, laid the groundwork for what happened in this election. My despairing thoughts and feelings were that those mechanisms were too big, too cleverly disguised, too hugely funded to fight. My hopes and dreams were over.
When I rallied enough to move, I went on Facebook and, for the first time ever, climbed down from my professional podium, and reached out to express my feelings and seek comfort. I consider myself a highly skilled wordsmith, but I could not find the words for this. However I found an image that did, the silhouette of a grieving woman featured in my post “See You Soon.” I changed my Facebook profile picture to this silhouette.
It meant so much that a white male friend with whom I have never discussed politics, and rarely, if ever, communicated with on Facebook, was the first to comment on my FB silhouette post that he felt the same way. Little by little, others began finding words for their feelings that helped me understand my own. One former schoolmate wrote “sucker punched.” One UU minister described it as grief for a country we thought we knew. Another UU minister cautioned us that we are experiencing the equivalent of temporary of ADD, and to drive very carefully.
Now, because I want to reach out with comfort for others, and because “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing,” (Edmund Burke), I am going on record to say that bigotry is not OK with me. Here are some other things that aren’t OK with me: misogyny, oligarchy, theocracy, white supremacy.
And as The Persuasion Coach, here’s my first advice on how to express your truth in the healthiest and most effective way possible, violence, verbal or physical, by anyone of any political persuasion is not OK with me. It will not help your cause. It will not convince anyone who disagrees with you to even consider your views. It will only make those who disagree with you resist your message more. If you want to know more about how and why this happens, see Chapter 4 of Bridges to Consensus.
And if you are having questions about how to express something, contact me, and I will help you.
I will write soon about first aid for grief. Meanwhile, wishing you all the best,
Thanks so much, David. Feel free to share with anyone you think it would help.
Margaret, thank you for writing from you heart. I’m grieving, too, and your blog brought me some comfort.
I’m so glad it helped. This is what keeps me going. If you know someone else whom it might help, please share it.
Margaret, first i am so sorry you suffer from
IBS. I can only imagine how painful that is. And, second, I too fell into deep grief early Wednesday morning to think that so many fellow Americans would vote for a person who has behaved so immorally over a woman who everyone I spoke to agreed was the best possible candidate. It was hard to fathom that so many people were conned. I was literally sick for a few days – I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. I’m still in grief. It helps to know that she actually won by over 5 million votes but then how could she lose?
Thank you for your eloquent post. I wonder if any past election has ever generated grief to the extent this one did? Until now, I have never felt so completely abandoned by the political process. I have lost my belief in the inherent honor of the American people, and the disillusionment is heart-breaking.
Thanks for sharing from the heart, Amy. There are millions of good Americans out there who share similar feelings. One thing I hold on to is that DT would like nothing better than for people like us to despair and give up. It’s part of the plan.
I plan to write more about hope and moving forward in the coming weeks. But for now, I believe we will be better off in the long run if we tune out this weekend and enjoy Thanksgiving with our friends and families. I hope you find comfort that way, and thanks again for commenting.