Think about someone you know who lives in a world of “less than” (it may even be yourself). Women are often treated as “less than” men, the poor seen as “less than” the rich, blacks treated “less than” whites, “queer” less than “straight”, “trans” less than those who live in their assigned gender, etc. Even the child who is different from her peers is called “less than”.
There’s an emotional shell that forms from the repeated judgements, the invisible cultural barriers, and the demands to “stay in your place”. It can become painful and reactive, tired of always protecting the tender person within. It’s the shell around a heart and the shell around a community.
As without, so within. “Less than” is a story we also tell ourselves.
Think about someone you know who lives in a world of “more than” (it may even be yourself). Someone who has the privilege of their race, gender, and/or affluence. Someone whose voice carries weight. There’s a shell there too, often with the fear of loss of status and possibly a discomfort over being part of the more-than/less-than system. They might seem blinkered or arrogant, but is there also a tinge of fear underneath?
We’ve all held someone else back and we’ve all held ourselves back. This binds us all. Where can we find liberation?
Love may call you to approach the mechanisms of privilege and suppression. It’s not easy. All too often, when our shells touch it brings pain and reactivity on all sides. Whenever you’re pushed back toward the invisible barriers or someone points out your role in maintaining them, let love call you back from the edge. Whether that challenge seems righteous or unfair, let love call you back from the edge. Listen to the part of yourself that is responding and see if there’s a corresponding part in the other person.
We are all human and we are all tender underneath. There is always a way to build a bridge.
If you are on this path, you know the discipline of responding to ego with love. Sometimes love needs to listen, accept, and reach out; sometimes it needs to listen, accept the person, and draw the line that says “No, that behavior harms both of us, and we both deserve better.” Sometimes it needs to witness in silence.
You know that love can be relentless. It can hold all this.
I invite you into this practice: to approach these questions in whatever way suits you; to hold yourself in love whenever this becomes a challenge; and to hold all challengers (including yourself) with fierce and tender love.
Let the shell open. Let yourself open.