The great safety pin debate. The epic pussy hat debacle. These are just two examples of an ongoing trend in liberal circles: people (often with relative privilege) respond poorly when their well meaning actions are critiqued by others on the left (often by folks with relatively less privilege). While some lament that divisive critique is destroying the left I know that we who believe in liberation have the spiritual resources to respond well to critical feedback and move forward together. How do I know this? Because I’m an able bodied cis white woman from a middle class liberal background who has learned to respond less defensively to critique from the left over time, using spiritual practices. And I have learned a lot and become more spiritually healthy and more ready for resistance in the process. Let’s clarify some assumptions: I’m assuming that folks reading this blog post are firmly opposed to oppression, have basic familiarity with the ways white supremacy, cis-hetero-patriarchy, classism and ableism play out, and are interested in being even more effective in the resistance to our new administration and its terrifying agenda. I’m generally going to be directing these practices toward folks with relative privilege (that is, folks who are less impacted by the intersecting types of oppression described above). As stated, I’m a relatively privileged white woman, and I mostly am thinking of my fellow middle class able bodied white cis women as I write this. However, this writing may be useful to anyone who receives a critique of a tactic who has privilege relative to the person offering the critique or to the folks who might be excluded or harmed by the action (such as men receiving a feminist critique or able bodied folks receiving a critique related to disability justice). Let’s dive in: So let’s say one of us did or said or supported a thing. Like we put on a safety pin after the election or got ourselves a pussy hat for the Women’s March. And then let’s say we came across an article or a Facebook status, a tweet, an email, a personal comment in a conversation, or some other form of communication that said that action was problematic. These critiques come in all tones and intentions and from folks of many different backgrounds. But no matter what the tone or vehicle of the critique, I believe there are some key spiritual practices we can use to respond to the critique in the most spiritually mature and helpful way possible.
- Open up: Feel our feelings and vent privately
- Wonder: Find something we can learn from the feedback
- Center: Re-connect to our core values
- Discern: Figure out what you personally are going to do now
- Respond: Action, gratitude, and helping others