You must stand for something!
It does not have to be grand,
but it must be a positive that brings light
to someone else’s darkness.
~ Anthony Carmona
“They,” whoever they are, say that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. What do you stand for?
A handful of courageous activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Gloria Steinem, and Nelson Mandela, have changed the world because of their stand. But the idea of taking a stand, being selfless, living values-first, has become the perceived exception rather than the widely adopted norm.
If it’s true that only a few actually stand for something and persevere to help bring about constructive change in society, then what are the rest of us here for? To make their lives more difficult? To slow down the process of positive change? Or, might we join them and do our share?
It’s been said that if you aren’t part of the solution you’re part of the problem. No one likes to think of themselves as a problem but how many of us are standing for nothing in particular right now except our own existence and whatever immediate pleasures we can get? This describes our narcissistic culture.
Ask yourself where you stand. Consult your heart: are you living fully in your deep passion right now? And, what exactly do you stand for?
Living Your Passion
The two may seem different -- taking a stand and living your passion -- but they’re mated. For those well-known activists I just mentioned, their passion was always devoted to what they stood for. It was never just an intellectual exercise or a duty.
Remember the movie Network? Now, there was someone taking a passionate stand. If you remember, Peter Finch’s character exhorted viewers of his radical television show to go to their windows, open them, and shout: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Thousands in his TV audience did exactly that in the movie. We watched and many of us got enrolled in their outrage. I know that some viewers even got up and shouted from the window themselves.
But, in the end, what happened out here in the real world? What action did any of us take relative to the themes of the film, which included economic monopolization enabled by an increasingly disempowering mainstream media?
Since that film aired in 1976 those aspects of our society have deteriorated much further into a quagmire of feudal dysfunction, with little resistance from most of us. Why did so few of us do anything to stop hate radio, for instance?
So it goes in modern civilization. We see it in a movie, we read it online or in a book, we gain new understanding, we experience new emotion, and we’re done. What has changed in us? Often, next to nothing.
An obvious recent example in America was the campaign and election of President Obama. “Hope and change” was his theme and we rallied around it, thrilled with new possibilities. Eight disappointing years later, we’ve seen just how difficult it is to change the status quo in Washington.
“Hope and change” was a great campaign slogan, it won an election. What’s happened to our hope? How much real change happened? To say it’s been disappointing is a gross understatement. Who knows why these dreams failed? Many would argue that the President himself hasn’t much actual power. An obstructionist Congress didn’t help.
Regardless, instead of blaming others, what about me and what about you? What do you stand for? Do you have vision, a daily practice, someone to be accountable to, and will you take one action after another to turn your life in the direction you want and give your gifts in the world?
Those of us who live this kind of life can become discouraged. A friend told me about a letter he received from a veteran environmentalist, someone he considered one of the strongest people he knew. She had been working on tragic issues in Africa, helping an indigenous village confront cruelty and oppression. After years of this she gave up.
Her letter began, “By the time you read this I will be dead.” Her heart was broken and so was her spirit. She just couldn’t take any more. She chose to end her life rather than continuing to confront madness and cruelty. So, let’s never forget that we need each other. Let’s never forget to ask for help when we need it -- and we always need it.
It seems that plants can recognize kin, says Brandon Keim of Wired Magazine. In a paper published in the November American Journal of Botany, (biologist Susan) Dudley describes how Impatiens pallida, a common flowering plant, “devotes less energy than usual to growing roots when surrounded by relatives. In the presence of genetically unrelated Impatiens, individuals grow their roots as fast as they can. Apparently plants recognize their relatives via chemicals exuded from their roots, and choose to share available nutrients with them.”
FACING YOUR SHADOW
Taking a stand includes acknowledging that we all have our personal shadows. It’s incomplete to work in the world without working within ourselves.
‘The shadow,” wrote Carl Jung (in 1963), is “that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious.”
You cannot see your own shadow. You can acknowledge that you have one/many, and you can enroll others to help you see what you cannot see for yourself. Unless you do, what is suppressed will erupt under pressure.
More Than Doing Noble Things
There is more involved than just doing noble things. It’s not enough to heed inspiring words like these from John F. Kennedy: “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Has that worked? Yes, we’ve made progress. But we haven’t averted the threat of human near-term extinction. Without dismissing the obvious value of Kennedy’s stirring message, clearly something additional is needed. I suggest working on the inside as well as on the outside.
Modern mystic Andrew Harvey writes, “In authentic shadow work you will be compelled to discover that everything you hate in others lives in you -- that everything you fear in the destructive forces raging in our world has a home in you in some dark corner, in an unacknowledged, unhealed fear or trauma, a hunger to be unique and special, or an unexamined desire for revenge.” [The Hope, Andrew Harvey]
Taking A Stand Within Ourselves First
The stand we take is first within ourselves, refusing to demonize the forces “out there” by acknowledging that they also thrive within us.
How do we break free of all this? With therapy? That might help, but the Prayer of St. Francis offers a profound perspective on what it means to take a stand which, I feel, can help us quietly dispel some of our own shadows.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
There can be great solace in prayer, and taking a stand for something you believe in is profoundly self-affirming. It’s not enough just to meditate. That is not an action in the world. It is not enough to march in the streets. Together, working on both the inner and the outer enables us to weave together the sacred with the pragmatic.
Leadership will always reside in the few, but that doesn’t mean that many more can’t and don’t live with integrity and honor. Most people already do live with integrity and honor, as we know, but that’s not enough. If we are to survive, someone must take a stand to help humanity change directions.
Will you help lead the way?
Copyright 2016. Natural Wisdom LLC.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Now or Never: A Time Traveler's Guide to Personal and Global Transformation
by Will Wilkinson
Discover, learn, and master simple and powerful techniques for creating the future you prefer and healing past traumas, to improve the quality of your personal life and help create a thriving future for our great grandchildren.
About the Author
Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant with Luminary Communications in Ashland, Oregon. He has written and delivered programs in conscious living for forty years, interviewed scores of leading edge change agents, and pioneered experiments in small scale alternative economies. Find out more at willtwilkinson.com/