I just read a chapter in Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown that I wish I could share with every human alive in the world today. This chapter is screaming from inside my heart and I can’t quite bring it to stop.
Holding Hands. With Strangers. is a chapter that explains to me why the Covid-19 pandemic has been an explosion of hate and discrimination. More than anything I’ve read in the last nearly two years, this chapter has me wanting to yell from the rooftops that I know why we are so hateful, scared, sad and disconnected. I finally understand why a health crisis has stripped so many of their basic empathy and compassion for strangers and loved ones alike.
This book was written in 2017 and isn’t about Covid, it’s about true belonging and the courage to be ourselves no matter what’s going on around us. The book has felt profound and meaningful at many points, but I was not prepared for the power of this chapter.
I wish I could sit down with you and read it to you. I feel like if we could share this chapter in person, together, then a little bit of healing could start. We could start to make our own light in the darkness. Or, together, we would be the light in the dark.
In Holding Hands. With Strangers. Brené talks about her research in how to really know and feel that we are all connected to each other. The answer, “Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection.”
Don’t you get it? Showing up in person and coming together with strangers keeps us grounded in our common humanity! The people we sway with at Folk Fest, the people we chat with in the grocery line up, the people we cry with at a funeral. All of these little moments that reinforce our humanity have been stripped away from us and replaced with blame and fear.
We have missed out on being human together over the past two years. We have been deprived of meaningful moments with strangers and even face-to-face meetings with those we love.
I’m not blaming anyone here, I’m not saying that public health should or should not have done anything. I don’t want this to be about blame or shame at all.
I want this to be about recognizing the humanity that we share with every other person living on this planet whether we agree with their politics, religious views, fashion sense or not.
We are collectively sad and lonely.
It’s hard to sit with that. It’s hard to acknowledge (especially right now when we’re so entrenched in us versus them) that we need each other at the most basic and fundamental level.
It’s easier to hate, blame and be angry.
It’s easier to push each other away than it is to sit with the painful cracks in our own hearts.
I get it. I totally understand why it’s easier to be righteous than vulnerable, why it’s easier to be angry than sad.
And, most of all, why it’s easier to have someone to blame than to just accept that we don’t have control in life.
I get it, but I also reject it. It isn’t what I want in my life. What I want is to be happy.
Now, I know this is maybe an eye roll worthy goal. It’s simplistic and childish, but it is really what I want.
I don’t mean that I expect to skip along happily through all of life’s daily disasters without a care in the world, I just mean that I want to make decisions in my day to day that are going to bring more kindness into the world and more happiness into my life.
There isn’t a lot of room for happiness in the face of hate. Both sides of hate bring a whole lot of pain and misery even if sometimes it is cleverly disguised by what Brené calls common enemy intimacy.
The thing about common enemy intimacy is that it feels good in the same way that drinking a couple of bottles of wine solves all your problems.
I have definitely taken part in common enemy intimacy in my life, mostly in the realm of politics. Coming together with others to insult, vilify and dehumanize a political leader has a kind of delicious righteousness to it that is very appealing.
Sadly, the research shows that this kind of gleeful shared hate, does not actually bring us together and fill our bucket of belonging.
When we come together in the name of hate, we will never truly feel free to be our authentic selves. When we build connections based on us versus them, we know there is always a slippery slope that we could slide down and suddenly find ourselves on the other side.
Dehumanizing has led to war, slavery, genocide, lynching, mass murders, school shootings, suicide bombers… the list could go on and on and I’m not sure that I would find anything on it that I would want more of in this world.
All of this is a complicated way of saying, I am sad and I miss you. I hope we can find more ways to meet and safely connect. I hope that we can find more ways of putting down our armour and leaning into each other a little more.
Alone we are empty, together we are humanity.