Much of what I’ve learned in life I have learned by negation.
I thought I was an extrovert, until I lived with someone who would plan to be busy at least 6 evenings a week and felt deprived if she hadn’t talk to several good people during each and every single day. Then I thought I was an introvert until I remembered the people I know who are happy to spend weeks without serious social interaction.
I now believe I am an ambivert (someone who likes some of both solitude and relationships, gets energy from a balance of internal and external processing, or simply tests near the middle of Myer Brigg’s scale from I to E).
So, I want to say thank you to those who have taught me so much.
To the executive director who trusted a board enough to depart without a clear succession plan but with a strong chair in place. Thanks for teaching me that one strong leader is not enough to generate a sustainable committee.
To the boss who was too afraid to confront power time and time again, thank you for showing me the consequences of not being true to myself. Your fear showed me the alternative to the consequences of speaking out and occasionally getting slapped back. I’d rather be my true self and get things done than try and please people but still get treated badly.
To the coworker who tried to smooth everything over with an underlying solution that “the boss gets his way,” Thank you for showing me what happens to a person who chooses to support hierarchies. When you cower while reducing harm you may be enabling the worst behaviors. I’ve known two versions of this person, never makes waves, tries to make it a tiny bit better. Thank you for teaching me not to wait to claim my power, that only working in my designated sphere of influence is too often indistinguishable from upholding the abusers.
To those who protected the abuser and made a thousand excuses. Who believe that it didn’t really happen, or that the accuser is exaggerating or making it up. I have no words of conciliatory kindness. You are avoiding a difficult conversation, and have no excuse. You are telling yourself that you have insufficient proof, or no responsibility. You are saying, but we cannot rush to judgement. You are wrong. Step the fuck up. Do an investigation. Do not use confidentiality as an excuse for secrets and hiding the truth. You are not protecting the abused by keeping the waves small.
Face the community and admit you made a mistake. That it happened, and you were wrong. That these are the steps which you will take to correct the error and remedy the past ills. And maybe the community will tell you, it’s not enough. If they do, go quietly. It is no shame to face, confess, and repent for years. The shame, what makes you a bad person, is when you do not even try, when you hide your errors and protect your buddies. We can no longer tolerate your lies.