Insight: Inclusive Love in an Exclusive World 240707

Insight from 240707 Community Gathering

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A large percentage of the population in the US, and indeed in all Democracy based western countries, have found reason to identify with exclusivist political ideologies that promote nationalist agendas.   Another way to express this is that a large percentage of the population of Western Democracies have taken on exclusivism as a dominant part of each their own individual identities. 

Sacred Breeze Ministries is centered in the Spirit of inclusive and unconditional love.  As such, we support not only the tolerance and acceptance of traditions, cultures, and religions worldwide, we celebrate them.  Our goal is to uplift the inclusive and unconditional loving Spirit that plays a part in all traditions, cultures, and religions. 

How can a person or group committed to inclusive unconditional love, love a person or group whose very identities are centered in exclusivist ideologies?

The answer starts with compassion.  And compassion arises from connecting with the challenges and suffering that others endure. 

Ask a person, any person, who they are, and you will get a variety of answers.  Some will reply based on relationships, some based on culture or religion, and some will answer based on political or ideological affiliation, just to name a few possibilities. 

When I was a young person in the 60s and 70s, the most likely answer to the question “who are you” would have based on what a person did for a living, or what they did with the majority of their time.  Where I was raised in blue collar working neighborhoods, the answer to the question might have been tool maker, electrician, carpenter, brick layer, or home maker.  My Dad was a purchasing manager for a medical supply company.  My mom moved from being an Xray technician to an inventor and a home maker.  

When I became a working professional, my identity shifted from student to engineer.  As an engineer, I worked in a large manufacturing facility, supporting people who assembled and tested electronic circuit boards and equipment in the 1980s.  The people who worked on the various production lines were of all races and ethnicities, all ages, many had families, and certainly some were LGBTQ. 

Later, in the 90s, my career shifted from manufacturing to product design engineering.  This insulated me somewhat from what was happening out in the factories and assembly lines. The good paying jobs with benefits were going away, and moving overseas.  It didn’t occur to me at the time, but not only livelihoods, but identities were changing as well.  People who had been electronic product assemblers and testers had to find other jobs that didn’t pay as well, and their “doing” centered identities lost dominance.  I was still a product designer, but my job shifted from working with a local factory, to working with factories overseas. 

By the time the 2000s rolled around, I had obtained some experience and seniority, I found myself leading design teams and working with design engineers who were not based in the US.  My peers from when I worked as a so called “line engineer” had joined the people who worked on the assembly lines and lost their good paying jobs.  They also lost their “doing” identities.  As a senior product design engineer, I was still somewhat insulated from experiencing the loss that so many others had.  Somehow my career survived wave after wave of layoffs and downsizings.  Until 2008 when I myself was downsized, when my own “doing” identity as engineer was upended. 

It turns out that over the course of a few decades, a great many people in the US lost good paying jobs, and the “doing” identities that were associated with them. 

When I was an adolescent in the 70s, we had a neighbor who was a veteran, had a blue-collar job, and had a nice house, 6 children, and a vacation home.  When I was an adolescent in the 70s, that was middle class.  Over the course of a few decades, that all disappeared.  A life with a good paying job and a vacation home moved toward 2 and 3 part time jobs with no benefits.  Working and doing identities became survival identities.

Self-esteem is attached to valuing one’s self.  In modern western society, income and lifestyle are measures of how a person is valued.  Over the course of a few decades, millions of people experienced not only loss of income, but loss of identity and self-esteem along with it. 

Now, the social goals I was raised to believe in the 60s and 70s were wonderful.  We wanted to end wars, and lift up oppressed people.  We wanted to liberate women, erase poverty, racism and lift everyone into the kind of post-world war middle class lives our neighbors enjoyed.

Unfortunately, in our fervor to lift up traditionally oppressed groups, we failed to notice the huge population that was falling behind, and suffering from the loss in income, self-esteem, and identity.

Loss of self esteem and sense of identity makes a person, or group of people, vulnerable.  And whenever and wherever there are vulnerabilities, there are persons and groups who take advantage of those vulnerabilities.  People who offer a restoration of pride and dignity.  These promises are often coupled with scapegoating and blame of others for the loss of dignity and identity.  In the US and in the west, we’ve seen blame shift over time, from Black people to Jewish people, to Muslims and poor people, to women and LGBTQ people and to both documented and undocumented immigrants and finally, ultimately, to people who identify with  inclusive, liberal ideolgies.  Vulnerable people are told that trying to make the world a better place for everyone is the problem, and only exclusivist actions and blame of others can offer relief from suffering and challenges. 

There are plenty of solutions being argued regarding how to address the demise of the middle class.  I believe that excluding or oppressing or somehow controlling groups of people won’t restore the middle class.  I believe, based on 20th century history, that completely upending society doesn’t provide an answer either.  Upending societies in the hopes of somehow starting over always and ultimately result in great amounts of suffering and death. 

But this insight is not about offering solutions to the challenges related to exclusivist identity.  This insight is about compassion, specifically compassion for the millions of people who have found themselves without a productive identity, many of whom struggle to make ends meet.

Compassion recognizes the suffering that feeds exclusivist movements.  Compassion lifts up the positive, even in the midst of negativity.  Compassion expresses gratitude and appreciation whenever possible. 

Compassion also recognizes the sacred nature of every human being, indeed every living creature, including one’s self. 

That said, encounters with exclusivist identities sometimes include hurtful words and behaviors.  Compassion does not simply excuse hurtful words or behaviors.  Hurtful words and behaviors are met with honesty and integrity, recalling the sacred nature of the individual behind the words and behaviors.  Compassion for self and other exercises healthy boundaries and walks away from abuse, rather than enduring or escalating. 

When negativity comes, and it does, sometimes heavily, it is tempting to attack back in kind.  It is tempting to stereotype an individual based on politics or race or socioeconomic status.  And yes, a phrase like “Conservative white privileged male” is a stereotype, that dehumanizes the individual and negates the individual’s sacred nature as much as any other stereotype.  Stereotyping also reinforces a person’s identification with exclusionary ideologies. 

A viable alternative to exclusivist identity recognizes the Sacred Nature of self and every human being.  Instead of retribution and stereotyping, compassion recalls and uplifts the Sacred Nature of Self and Other, if not in words, in attitude and action. 

On a recent driving trip, we encountered an individual who was gloating over recent political events that favored the exclusivist ideology and identity.  He also talked about a lifetime of running small businesses, and the challenges of living under current economic conditions.  Under more favorable conditions, the person may have been retired rather than selling produce from an open road side stand in the summer heat of the rural southern United States. 

As for my reaction, I’ll admit I was angry.  I felt as if my own identity was under attack.  I walked away, and drove away, and considered my own reaction.  While walking away prevented conflict, an opportunity to recognize the sacred nature of the individual, and the challenges he endured, was delayed at best.  The opportunity to thank him for offering the service he provided, recognizing the challenges he endured, and reinforcing his Sacred Nature as a human being was lost as well. 

In the US and around the world, it seems that ideological differences are the foundation of more and more separation and conflict, even within communities and families.  Authentic Spirit inspires healing and reconciliation.  Compassion, grounded in in inclusive, unconditional love, seeks peace and reconciliation.  When peace and reconciliation are not immediately possible, exercising healthy boundaries helps to maintain civility and safety, while recognizing suffering and the sacred nature of others helps to humanize others and increase compassion.  Recognizing the sacred nature of others also has the potential for helping others to recognize their own Sacred Nature.  And when a person recognizes their own Sacred Nature, an alternative path to self-esteem and identity opens up as well. 

Maintaining compassion and civility in conflict situations isn’t easy.  Sometimes ego centered defensiveness takes over, and conflict escalates anyway.  When this happens, there is an opportunity to be kind to self and others, to forgive and to learn from the experience.  There is an opportunity to learn and grow as an individual, and as a Sacred Being worthy of unconditional love. 

My prayer is that we all open our hearts to authentic Spirit, that we may grow in compassion and act as peace makers and healers in these challenging times.  May we all allow our inherent Sacred Nature as human beings to become dominant centers of our identities.  And may we each embrace and uplift the inclusive, unconditionally loving aspects of our own faiths, cultures, and traditions. 


Posted by Dave Miller on 9 Jul 2024 in Category Insights    •••    Insight: Inclusive Love in an Exclusive World 240707 / Insights

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