Where is the line: A fire drill for your morals

For several months, the US has been stewing in a lot of strong negative emotions. We’re angry, we’re scared, we’re offended, we’re sad. These emotions are all valid, and communication challenges are very real. What would it look like to approach these concerns from a place of positivity and shared values? How can we exercise and engage our best selves?

I’d like to thank Tim for allowing me space to share a 3 step process that I’ve been working through, that may start some interesting reflections for others regardless of who you did, or didn’t, vote for.

Let’s start with the notion that most people are basically good, and probably flawed. We don’t actively wish injury or pain on people who are different from us. So what does that look like in practice?

Step 1: Where do you draw the line?

If we oppose harm to other people, there must be some point where we would act. Where is that line for you? Be specific. What joke won’t you laugh at? When will you speak out against a loved one?A faith leader? When will you vote against a candidate who otherwise represents your interests? When will you call your elected representatives, donate money, take time off work to participate in a demonstration or day of action? When will you report a threat, or try to stop a physical attack?

(If you can’t find that line, it’s possible you are in fact racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted. So take some time to think about this, it’s harder than it sounds.)

Step 2: How do you know that line has been crossed?

Beyond all the conversations about fake news, the human brain has a remarkable ability to reject information that contradicts our deeply held beliefs. I am incredibly ashamed to admit so publicly how long it took me to believe people of color about racially biased police violence. My brain worked hard to reject the notion that we live in a society where the color of your skin determines how likely you are to be killed by police.

How are you listening to know when your line has been crossed? Are you trusting the voices of the people most impacted by those actions? Your brain will fight your deeply held values on this, so be prepared to feel uncomfortable.

Step 3: What specifically will you do?

You know when to act.

You have determined it’s time to act.

What specifically will you do? How will you do it? Can you practice now?

When we're shocked, as you will be when your values are crossed in this way, it's really, really hard to act. There are real costs to action, whether it’s stepping into harm’s way, or straining close relationships, or waking up 15 minutes early to call your representatives before your kids get up. Having a specific plan will help good people step up and do the right thing.

If we all start practicing, we will be prepared to engage our best selves and stand up for our values. It’s like a fire drill for your morals.