When we find ourselves in situations where injustice or marginalization is occurring, it can be incredibly difficult to remain at peace and related to others. Yet that is what will help us have the clearest perspective on the situation and respond in the most effective way as it unfolds.
Since we haven’t been taught how to do this in our society, the Compassionate Activism Model is designed to teach the very practices that will build our capacity to respond with both love and justice, which are:
1. The Practice of Humility and Curiosity
We often assume we know exactly what is or what will be happening in the situation – both with the other person and ourselves – based on our anti-oppression analysis and our own experiences.
And while it can feel good and right to blame, judge, and dismiss them or ourselves, it actually prevents us from finding out what’s actually going on underneath. Because while it’s possible that our assumptions are correct, we don’t know for sure until we ask them about their experience and sit in our own experience.
2. The Practice of Distinguishing Realities and Acknowledging Them
When thinking about these situations, we spend most of the time focusing on what we wished was happening instead and wanting it to be different – instead of noticing what actually is happening in reality.
While this approach can feel good to us, it keeps us distracted from what’s actually happening. So we’re unable to affect change because we’re focused on what’s not actually there. If instead, we focus on what was said and done in the exchange and how that impacted us, we can start to take action on what’s real, especially the pain and fear that’s underneath our automatic reaction.
3. The Practice of Gentle Mindfulness and Compassionate Self-Accountability
We usually do all that we can to avoid and ignore that pain and fear because it overwhelmed us when we were children and didn’t know how to process it then.
However, we can only begin to heal the pain when we acknolwedge it with gentle, loving, and non-judgemental attention. Once we are aware of the pain, we can take responsibility for how we had not been attending to it. Only then can we begin to take care of our needs like we deserve.
4. The Practice of Compassionate Truth-Telling and Consciousness-Raising Inquiry
Growing up, we were usually scolded and punished when we did something hurtful. So we learned to associate saying that something hurt us with punishment and to avoid sharing our truths.
Now when we tell our truth, it’s often to police and punish. However we can instead tell our truth about the hurt we feel due to someone else’s actions in order to heal ourselves and raise the other person’s consciousness.
When we hold the space for us to share our truth, we are more able to hold the space for others to also share their truth – even when it’s very different from our own. This allows us to dig deeper into where their biased perspective comes from so they can become conscious of their conditioning from systemic oppression. In that sharing of our truths and genuine listening, we are able to honor our feelings and needs as well as reconnect with each other.
5. The Practice of Shared Envisioning and Non-Cooperation
When we view the other person as our adversary, then much of our time and energy goes into handling the resistance in our relationship. However, once we’re reconnected through compassion and empathy for our respective truths, we’re able to identify our shared values and co-create a vision that is inspiring and strategic in order to advance our shared goals.
But sometimes, we do not want to collaborate together or are unable to co-create a vision and that’s okay. Then we choose to not work with them without making them wrong for it or retaliating against them for it. Instead, we can wish them continued healing and growth so that we may be able to create together in the future.
In these ways, the Five Practices of Compassionate Activism offers a deeply loving and humanity-affirming alternative to the standard dominating approaches we’ve been taught. Because only a truly loving approach can address injustice. It’s the only thing that heals the psychic wound created and restores the broken connection in our sense of shared humanity.
It’s loving justice that calls on us to be our higher selves and to be person we dream of being in the world.