Recognizing my fears and moving beyond them has been a big part of my spiritual journey.
Too often, I speak or act out of fear, then feel an interior uneasiness and later wonder what is hiding beneath the fear. What brokenness is waiting to be healed? What understanding needs to be awakened?
I have come to believe that fear is a shackle, and that only trust leads to freedom. My desire is to have nothing to fear, nothing to prove and nothing to hide—to live transparently.
During a recent day-long workshop on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I thought of times I have felt excluded and was afraid to call attention to my situation. I also thought of times when I was with people who were different from me and was irrationally afraid.
One of the panels that day consisted of four white men—talking about diversity, equity and inclusion. Bad optics, I thought. And as I watched these men, I could almost see their fists clenched as they grasped tightly to their control. I wondered what needs to be healed or awakened in them that would enable them to share the stage with someone who does not look like them.
And then I wondered where in my life I am unwilling to share the stage with someone who does not look like me.
Another workshop session was about being an ally. One of the panelists shared a story of being singled out in a grocery story because her head scarf identified her as a Muslim. A man walked right up to her and called her a terrorist. I was shocked that someone would do that, but apparently it is not that uncommon.
The panelist said that as hurtful as it was for this man to accuse her of being a terrorist, what was even more hurtful was that no one came to her aid—neither to challenge the man nor to offer her support. No one asked if she was ok after the man had walked away. No one was an ally to her in her time of need.
Her story prompted me to consider if I would be willing to stand up to someone who is being confrontational or to stand beside someone who is being confronted—if I could be an ally to someone who is different from me.
Last week, our local newspaper ran a piece about a man wanting to make our county a more welcoming place for people in the LGBTQ community. He is organizing a Pride event. I was both happy that he is doing this and afraid for him. I don’t think of our community as being particularly welcoming toward any minority group, and I imagined his announcement produced some push-back from fearful people.
This week, I happened to meet that man, and I shared my reaction to the newspaper piece. I applauded his courage and offered my support because I, too, want our community to be less fearful and more inclusive.