Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Empathy and Accountability

If you read the three parts of “Talking to the Other,” you might have noticed the way I got pulled into the macho squaring-off dynamic. Seeing how the “other” relished each comment as a way to fling back the meticulously hoarded ammunition he delighted in hurling and how it was bumming me out to feel there was no attempt at a dialogue that led to better understanding, I finally took Nietzche’s advice— “Where one cannot love, there one should pass by”— and unfriended him. 


And then the next day was an unrelated post by an Orff colleague that serendipitously hit the key points of what I had just gone through! With his permission, I share here some wise words from Ryk Groetchen:


I am thankful for those who point out the ways that I might make better choices. Even though it may be difficult to hear that my actions are causing distress, this information helps me to make healthier choices in the future. Hearing that I acted in a harmful way does not diminish my humanity—indeed, it gives me tools for self-reflection, and helps me to improve my game.


We must acknowledge that people who endure trauma sometimes pass this trauma on to others. It is a big task to stop the cycle of violence. We're all doing our best.


But we must really support one another to be our best selves. The fact that we have endured trauma must be taken into account by an empathetic community, but we also must be held accountable for the ways in which our behavior affects others. 


As a community, we must recognize the ways in which victims of trauma pass this distress on to others, and we must find kind and supportive ways of intervening and directing trauma victims toward positive support systems. 


The fact that one has endured trauma is not a free pass to act out against others.


I like this so much. Especially the balance between empathy and accountability, understanding trauma without excusing the choice to pass it on. Like all good ideas well-presented, it sparked more questions for me. Which I’ll get to later, possibly in conversation with Ryk. Someone I can have a conversation with because he’s someone who is looking to “improve his game” through “tools of self-reflection.”


And so am I. And so should we all.  

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