Being the Spark: Listen, Empathize, and Leverage

Being the Spark: Listen, Empathize, and Leverage

How does your family love people from all different types of backgrounds?

I’d like to take it a little deeper this week that goes beyond just raising kids who accept people who don’t look like them. I recently heard a talk that spurred me to think about what loving people who are different looks like, whether it’s in your neighborhood or on your sports team. 

Love Looks Like This…

Listen, don’t defend.

“Seek to Understand” has always been a motto in the Meredith house, and it was used often in connection with getting along with coaches, friends, teammates, and family.

But that phrase has taken on a whole new meaning for me as I seek to understand someone whose experiences are totally different than mine, whose skin color is different from mine, and whose view of the world based on their experiences is vastly different than mine.

In order to do that, we must LISTEN. Listen to understand, not to defend or condemn. We should not be trying to win an argument; we should be trying to understand.

Empathize, don’t numb.

Being numb to the pain of others is one of our biggest obstacles to getting along with others. We think that because we don’t see the oppression or the mistreatment of our-selves, that it really doesn’t exist. So, we grow numb to it. 

Just because you don’t see it or experience it doesn’t mean racism is not happening. The thing about empathy is that it requires you to FEEL. It means we feel sad with our friends of color who’ve been hurt. It means we feel angry with our friends of color who’ve been mistreated. It means we feel joy with our friends of color who experience victory.

But for many of us, it’s just been easier to be numb. That’s not real love.

Leverage, don’t limit.

Lastly, love looks like action. Love listens and empathizes, but it does not stop there. It does something. And that something is as unique as you are.

You have an opportunity to help heal our country in your own small (or big) sphere of influence. You don’t have to protest if you don’t want to, you don’t have to blast it out on social media if you don’t want to, but you can leverage the influence you have in your conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. As an employer, a teacher, a blogger, and most importantly as a parent. You have influence with someone, so use it to speak up for what’s right. 

As you listen, empathize, and leverage your influence to help fight racism, your kids will catch the vision and pass it on in their worlds–school, neighborhood, sports.

It’s up to you: Be the spark that gets the fire going in your world of influence.


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