Choose Helpful AND Harmless

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We often admire people who seem to overcome adversity with grace and resilience. What we don’t always realize that they only do so when they choose helpful and harmless ways of operating, no matter what the conditions in which they find themselves. The quote below by Nelson Mandela is a great example. He survived and even thrived in prison for over 27 years because he was helpful and harmless with the prison guards, the authorities, and his fellow inmates. He befriended them all, advocated for better conditions in the prison (e.g., better food, medical attention and more) and was focused on causing good even in the most dire of conditions. No matter what we do, if we commit to caring for and advocating for all, and doing so while honoring and respecting everyone, no matter who they are and what their behavior, we will be able to do the impossible and come out stronger and more helpful than ever.

“It always seems impossible until it is done”

Nelson Mandela

I often reflect on how many people are “checked out” at work, home, and school; they are suffering and barely surviving, rather than overcoming and thriving.

The main reason for this outcome is that we are taught (directly and through modeling), that in and of ourselves we have very little power or influence and shouldn’t think otherwise. Most people see or read about someone like Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama and think, “Yeah, that’s not me.” And then, because we decide this is so, the possibility of being just as helpful and harmless is out of our sight and reach.

This perspective sets one on a path to thinking and feeling hopeless, helpless, scared, and small, which leads to seeking answers and solutions externally. The thought is, “Maybe if I band together with a religious, philosophical, military or political group, I can become more effective and together we can make things better.” The problem with this idea is that most groups do not put a high priority on harmlessness and therefore can’t adequately represent what works while bringing only positive results.

For myself, I require an unwavering commitment to being helpful and harmless. Many believe this is a pipe dream. I know it’s not (I teach it, and see people doing it every day with astounding results!). What is required is willingness to put down the old, and work hard to develop and promote the new: kindness, equality, dignity, empathy, and shared power in new and bigger measures.

Any activity that makes a person, whether inside or outside of a group, feel angry, hurt, oppositional, fearful, righteous, or coerced, has too high a price tag and must be discarded in order to make room for something better. The pseudo-power of using force and believing in conversion through it is very seductive. And while we humans need and want to be connected in community, we have an obligation to prepare ourselves to connect peacefully and to manifest trustworthiness of behavior. We need to help adults and children in homes, schools and companies to learn systems for doing this and to make them as important as–or more important than–making a profit, getting a grade, and having more stuff.

With the recent marches, I have searched my soul about both the positive and negative effects of collective action. I believe community only works well when people have developed their internal leadership and can maintain their ability to be helpful while remaining harmless. While I can point to real changes, which many believe could only have happened through struggle and opposition; I can also show a lot of collateral damage and setbacks due to this too. Belief in protest and strife perpetuates more of the same and keeps us distracted from our own commitment to fully engage in growing as individuals who are part of well-crafted solutions rather than being part of the problem. There can be no neutral about this. We can do better, but only if we believe it and want it with a mighty passion.

For me, I am committed to grow powerfully and authentically helpful and harmless. In order to do this, I first recognize which of my actions have negative impacts and cease doing them, even if conventional wisdom touts them as the only way to accomplish goals. I remember that I can and must be personally responsible and I strive towards that goal. I work to clear away programmed limiting beliefs, and practice being more excellent in managing my life, love, health, happiness, and work.

When I think of Nelson Mandela in prison for 29 years without losing his heart or mind, I realize that what he did was live one choice at a time, and that his choices came from a purposeful and loving place. He had mental fortitude and held firmly to his authentic power, which came from high vision.

Our world today needs authentic, powerful leaders who commit to making the ends and means equally important. Our world needs YOU. I personally have witnessed both sides of too many fences, erected to demonstrate that beliefs matter more than people, and that getting a win matters more than someone else’s loss. We are better than this. Make the choice to be helpful and harmless today and learn how to do so. It takes a kind of warrior-ship, and if you don’t know how, you are not alone. There is freedom and release from suffering in making that choice. I’m here if you need help because this is what I help people do!

This article has been published in the column Emotional Intelligence in The Women’s Journals, Mar/Apr 2017

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