Hate begets hate; violence begets violence…We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the last 8 weeks, we have seen 12 Jews gunned down in their Pittsburgh synagogue because of their religion, two people killed in Louisville because they were Black, two women shot in a Florida yoga studio because the shooter hated women,15 pipe bombs sent to critics of the President, a Saudi journalist dismembered in Turkey, 2 immigrant children dying from ICE neglect in New Mexico, and 14 million Yemenis starving which US policy provides the weapons enabling it. This wave of hate-induced violence has made us all feel less safe. At Google tens of thousands of Googlers walked out of 40 offices around the world because of hate, harassment, and inequity toward women in their workplaces, just the latest installment of #MeToo. Enough is enough!
We must all stand for tolerance, hope, civility, and, yes, love toward our neighbors, especially in this time of holiday celebration. If we do not, we may very well descend into even greater hate and violence that could spill over into every aspect of our lives, including at work. As a human race, we’ve been there in the past. And we said “never again”. It is up to each of us to make sure.
To reverse course in this dark hour requires a special kind of principled leadership, leadership which can come from any of us regardless of what title we hold. Each one of us can create a “sphere of tolerance” around us, where we actively listen before we speak, where we walk a mile in the other’s shoes, and where we use emotional intelligence and self-regulation to respond rather than react to statements that are offensive to us. We can ask “Why” they made those statements. We can tell them how it makes us feel. We can ask them to open their hearts and minds to accept our differences. We can even ask them to reflect on how they would feel if hateful comments were made toward them or their children.
To do this requires us to have the courage to reach beyond our own views of what is the “truth”. It requires us to open our hearts and minds to appreciate the pain and fear that may drive the behavior of others, for we live in dark and fearful times. It requires us to know our “hot buttons” so others can’t push them to get us upset. It requires us to have faith in the decency of every human being, and the optimism to bring it out. It requires wisdom and insight so that we can appeal to our better angels. And it requires courage and inner strength to take a stand for what is decent and right.
I have enormous hope for our future, and that this dark moment will pass. As I’ve been told when I faced dark times, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”; the sun will rise again tomorrow. I am hopeful because of the intellect, energy, and enthusiasm of the Millennial generation who are taking over the workplace. I am hopeful because there is kindness, decency, and grace in our hearts. We can choose the light. We can choose hope over fear, love over hate, optimism over cynicism. I fundamentally believe in the goodness of the human race. We have just, for a while, lost our way. But by authentically sharing with another from our hearts, by listening with commitment, by understanding the pain others feel—in this way we can find our way back to the love Dr. King told us about during another dark time in our history, which we survived.