What does it take to be courageous?
In part, of course, it means having a passion for a cause that outweighs any potential negative consequence.
Take Malala, for instance, her passion for a right to an education outweighed the potential of being harmed. Take Nasreen Shiekh, a woman who ran away from home at 8 years old after seeing her aunt killed for being outspoken about equality, was forced into child slavery, and is now taking on the world’s leaders in the textile industry calling for a reformation of manufacturing and Fair Trade.
When you’re courageous there is little time to consider the harm you may incur
rather, you act.
In today’s society, at least in the western world, most of us feel comforted by our status quo enough to halt any action behind any rage or injustice we may feel - that to stand up for something against a well-established institution means to risk the security those comforts bring. Truly, it takes a special person who will risk their safety, well-being, and potentially, ultimately their life to bring about change in the social justice arena.
Yet today’s political and cultural atmosphere sparks in most a desire to take action on the things we believe to be important. Somewhere between the comforts of 1st world living and the anger towards systemic oppression, we find a paradox. To resist could mean risking our comfort but does the comfort pay the price of discrimination? A friend of mine seems to have struck a balance through posting her “Daily Acts of Resistance” on social media to serve as a reminder to take action everyday.
What are Daily Acts of Resistance? Here are some examples:
Make a donation to a political or social awareness activist group
Write letters to your politicians
Support local businesses
Support businesses that promote ethical and fair practices
Meditate and envision a better world
Write (& Publish)
Be a Humanitarian/Be the Example
Start a petition at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/
Attend & ask questions at your city council meeting
Of course, you can come up with plenty more tailor-made to your favorite cause.
If you don’t have a favorite cause, allow me to point out how many different causes need a voice, direction, and volunteers: anti-racism movements, anti-sexism movements/equality, anti-child labor movements, anti-human trafficking, and more. There are more positive causes as well that are more like shifts than “radical” “anti-x” social movements and they’re typically more solution oriented and less urgent though just as important. There’s the shift toward international spiritual enlightenment, toward environmental consciousness, empathy & intuition, etc. (note: I do not have an exhaustive list of sites or contact information for all of these causes, but a simple google search of [cause] + [your area] will generate plenty of information for you to get started.)
Along with all of these causes is confusion about which one demands the majority of our fury, which one earns our attention, and how do we even get started?
Determining which one deserves our attention is different for everyone as this is a very personal choice, typically based on personal experiences, but also it's the demand for time and resources that help make the decision. So, when searching for a cause, it's helpful to remember you need an attitude of sustainability. In other words, it’s one thing to stand for an injustice but the ability to stay loyal to your cause is what makes you and those around you exponentially more effective in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, when researching a completely unrelated topic, I came across some applicable advice: "it’s not that you do [something] daily, it’s that you’re consistent. Therefore, stick with the pace that you can be consistent with. If that’s once a week, daily, or even monthly, it’s OK as long as you're making progress."
It’s easy for so many of us, myself included, to become inspired by a cause or movement because of an uptick in media coverage. Take the environment for example - when we're shown images of shrinking ice caps or oceans of plastic floating in the sea, we act: we recycle, we stop using straws, we stop supporting businesses who use Styrofoam, etc.
Unfortunately though, for many of us, this surge in inspiration quickly fizzles and we return to our comfortable lifestyle, possibly at the expense of global warming (or pick a cause!).
In fact, it has been proven that the ozone layer is healing which, at the very least, is an example of what can happen when people rally together to bring awareness to an issue and collectively change their habits.
The same can be done for sexism.
The same can be done for racism.
The same can be done for slavery.
The same can be done for __fill in the blank___.
This is why adopting an attitude of sustainability and a mindset of leadership within yourself is imperative to effecting change. I’m not asking you to join Greenpeace. But, if you’re passionate about a cause, do something and do it often enough at a pace that you can manage so you can gain traction over time.
In order to accomplish any progress, your next immediate steps are these:
Get involved in a cause through aforementioned avenues
Think about the most effective way to bring awareness (peaceful protest, perhaps?)
Stand up against the injustice(s) within your cause
Be willing to stick with it - have an attitude of sustainability
Be open to mentors
Remain open to new opportunities for learning
Do something daily about your vision
Lastly, imagine a world where this problem no longer exists. There are two parts to this: defining your end goal and visioning.
Defining Your End Goal
Just like in physics, “an object in motion stays in motion,” the same is true of us. When we’re complacent, we remain complacent and when we’re angry, we remain angry. But, what about when we have reached our end goal? What do we do then? I think this question needs to go unanswered by this author because it too is a very personal question and thus it is, instead, perfectly valid for you to begin thinking about.
How will you define when you’re finished? What are some minor goals to check off along the way that tell you you’re on track? This may be indefinable in a concise way but that’s OK. That’s where visioning comes in; because, how can we define the end of racism, sexism, etc.?
Sometimes, instead of creating a road map, we need to vision for ourselves a world where this cause no longer needs to exist. Visioning and creating a road map go hand in hand and it’s easier to think about them together than to separate the two. As a leader, you have the ability to see beyond the immediate problem and all of the consequences the problem brings. You have the ability to observe solutions and you know how to communicate them. It’s whether or not you choose to take that action. Everyone has this ability within them and it’s up to you to answer your own personal calling of creating a better world according to your own capacity.
Personally, I have two causes that I have decided to weave into my life which I take an active resistance against; however, I still hold myself accountable for being sensitive to other causes and behave according to what they say makes a difference. For instance, I would not expect every single woman or man to be a feminist, much less dedicate their lives to the cause; but I do expect them to not be sexist. Similarly, I cannot dedicate my life to every cause but I can heed the research, advice, and expectations of the people who are dedicated to those various causes. I hope you choose the same.
Due to it being his birthday weekend, today’s blog post was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. whose life was dedicated to resistance and seeing a better life for humanity. To read more and possibly become inspired yourself, please see this article from Time that details the things we’ve been wrong about when discussing his life, accomplishments, and radicalism.