The Moment of Lift and Accepting Pain

I have been re-reading The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates and I was struck by this passage:

Acceptance does not mean accepting the world as it is. It means accepting our pain as it is. If we refuse to accept our pain, then we’re just trying to make ourselves feel better–and when our hidden motive is to make ourselves feel better, there is no limit to the damage we can do in the name of justice.

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates pg 259

That passage feels closely paired to this one:

Many successful social movements are driven by the same combination –strong activism and the ability to take pain without passing it on. Anyone who can combine those two finds a voice with moral force.

— The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates pg 256

When I come across a conflict, particularly on social media, most of the conflict arises out of two or more people reacting to their own pain and fear of being hurt further. These reactive discussions can occasionally be educational for those who had no idea that a particular thing might cause pain, but for the most part people end up re-injuring each other as they try to defend themselves or try to defend someone else that they are thinking about, but who isn’t even part of the conversation. I do feel a mandate to use my privilege to help and defend those who do not have those same advantages. There are times where I must speak up and confront someone to stop an active harm if it plays out in front of me. But confrontation is an aggressive tool, one that often triggers defensiveness in response. This is why I really like the idea of calling people in instead of calling them out. (This PDF from Harvard Diversity Inclusion & Belonging has a great summary of the difference.)

But that “call in” conversation will often go badly awry if we are functioning from a place of denied trauma or hurt. We have to own our pain first before we’re ready to take on the role of educator. It can be difficult to learn how to sit with pain and sadness, to accept them without trying to fix them. But there is huge power in mourning with those who mourn. In letting people feel whatever they feel without trying to fix or change those emotions. Those so-called negative emotions can be a huge driving force that causes people to change their lives and thus change the world.