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  • Writer's pictureKimmy

First course

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

I'm a nice guy from Springfield trying to make a living and doing the best I can. I've always felt successful. I've worked hard to get to where I am, and it has paid off. I don't judge people based on their color or gender, I value people for who they are. I like people and people like me. I have a good relationship with most of my coworkers, neighbors and I have lots of friends. They all seem to like my sense of humor. I am often at the center of the action and I know I have a lot to offer. But lately, like in the last year or so, I've noticed there are many things I feel out of the loop with. When I hear people talking about patriarchy and racism, as a white guy who tries hard to treat everyone equally, I don't feel like anything to add, or when I do others reject my input. I'm pretty discouraged about this. I feel like I don't belong. I feel stupid when I try to enter into the conversation, and everyone expects me to say something brilliant.


Hey J.D,

I hear that you are struggling to navigate conversations about patriarchy and racism. You are not alone. Conversations like these are happening all over the place, and there is a big learning curve that accompanies new dialogue. You say that you feel as though you once felt that you held a position of authority and respect among your coworkers and in your community, and now you question how you fit in. This sounds lonely and isolating. I would feel disoriented as well if I were in your shoes. Plus, it sucks to feel stupid.

You say you're trying to do the best you can and that’s great. I support you!

So, where to go from here?

Here is what might be happening: the people who have not had as much airtime or held the mic may be tired of not feeling like they have had a voice, even as they have appreciated your contributions. They are speaking to things like patriarchy and racism with which they have direct experience in a unique way. They want to process their experiences and need space to do that. If this is true, it seems fair enough. I can't know exactly what's happening because I'm not there, of course. I'm just taking a guess here. Relationships are funny; they can cruise along, and everything seems fine, but the undercurrents change over time, so our responses need to change.

This is a good thing. As people who care about recalibrating our moral compass to rise to the times, we know that change is a constant, and we have a choice in which direction to focus our part in change. I think being in a state of not knowing is an indication of growth, even if it is doesn't feel good. Plus, there is a gift in it.

I imagine you are the kind of guy who shows how much he cares by the way he engages with others. That touches my heart and deserves recognition. You've had plenty of feedback to support your experience that what you have to offer in a group is valuable. For good reason, I'm sure. So perhaps now it is time to look at how you can leverage your strength to pay it forward! You know what it feels like to hold a room's attention. You could offer that kind of focus to others. What a marvelous opportunity to offer the gift of engaged listening!

Shared learning through dialogue is like a basketball game. It's nice to let our teammates have the opportunity to score. People want to be heard; they want to be understood. Of course, you could try to fake that you know more than you do, but why waste a golden opportunity?! Listening brings us closer together. And listening can be as unique as you are. Imagine what it feels like in your body to be fully open, present, and curious about a new subject. Imagine what it feels like in your body to be a beginner, to know nothing, absolutely nothing, and be ok with that. For me, that feels like freedom. How is it for you?

Our brother from the 20th century, theologian Paul Tillich offers this bit of life advice, "The first duty of love is to listen." That's like, tattoo-worthy. Listening is a love note to our fellow human beings. This is especially true when you've held the mic for a while. Silence is noble, my friend. Silence is noble.

Keep on sharing your gifts and talents with your world. Good luck, buddy. I'm cheering for you!


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