“The light in me sees the light in you.” If you are at all familiar with yoga, you know this is what the word “Namaste” means. I have been thinking about this word and this phrase a lot lately. First of all, how cool is it that one word can contain such a beautiful meaning?! Second, I think it is a fitting practice for this moment in time.
I am writing this as a white woman and professional, whose life has been blessed by layer upon layer of privilege. I do not pretend to have answers for how we fix the racism that exists in this country, the world at large, or our workplaces. I am still listening and learning. But I know, like many others, I have been searching for some way to use what platform I have to make some sort of positive change.
Those of you who have worked with me have heard me talk about how organizational change often happens much more slowly than we would like. As HR professionals, we see what needs to happen, and if we could, we’d make it happen today. Unfortunately, a large part of our job is meeting people where they are and helping them to see where we are going, keeping our fingers crossed that they will choose to come along. We have to take the long view, constantly reminding ourselves that even baby steps will eventually get us to our destination.
There are so many things that need to happen to make our workplaces truly diverse and inclusive. But those changes take time, and we cannot guarantee that the companies for which we work are ready or willing to make the types of changes that need to be made. That is not to say that we don’t continue to push for those changes, but for those of us who are itching to do something meaningful right now, that slow pace can be excruciating.
I will devote future blogs to providing concrete steps that organizations can take to truly be more diverse and inclusive. However, since change starts within, I am going to start there. In the opening paragraph, I said that the practice of Namaste is fitting for this time. The use of the word “practice” was intentional. I am going to practice seeing the light in each and every person with whom I interact. To see the light in you, my eyes need to be open. More importantly, so does my heart and mind.
So, I will be intentional about my interactions with others. If I am going to have a conversation with a Black friend or colleague about race, I will do so with the intention to do no more harm. I will listen – just listen – even if what they say may be hard to hear. Even if my actions contributed to their pain and I have face that truth. I will acknowledge my role in letting systemic racism continue. I will do better. I will acknowledge that I will mess up and likely say something bone-headed at some point. I will apologize when I do. I will learn. I will ask how I can best offer support, and then show up. And if I get it wrong, I’ll apologize and show up again. I will let them see that I see the light in them.
If I am interacting with someone with whom I have fundamental disagreements, I will set my intention to do no more harm. I will listen, even though it may be difficult to hear what they have to say. I will look for opportunities to share experiences that may open their minds or plant a seed. I will acknowledge that I cannot change someone’s mind until their heart has opened. But I will do what I can to open that heart further, rather than close it off. I will let them know that I see the light in them, even if they cannot see the light in me.
That does not mean I will tolerate racism, bigotry, misogyny, or any other form of hatred. It means that I will stand up for what is right, but do all I can to help the person see that the light in others is nothing of which to be afraid. Baby steps, until we are either on the same path, or have to part ways.
To everyone with whom I interact, I will look for the light in them and let them see the light in me. I will be intentional about how I interact with others, focusing on leading with compassion and humanity. Will it change the world? Maybe not, but it might change someone’s world. And that may be enough. For now.