Thursday, May 26, 2005

Self Deprication and the Power of introspection

Well, this is going to be a pretty visceral entry of self reflection...

These past couple of weeks have zipped by with conferences, meetings, and just hard planning/work...I am happy with myself for the work I have been doing lately...but this past Monday was a really big wake up call for me and why I am here.

You see, I have many meetings, pretty much almost weekly, and they always have content, meaning and I listen, offer my thoughts, write down things, and feel really good that things are rolling and being accomplished. This entry is dedicated solely to an epiphany that occurred at a meeting where I simply had no idea the depth and importance of helping others. All it took was a guy whom I didnt know to get angry at me and basically shatter my ego into an oblivion.

His name is Gerald Taylor, an Industrial Areas Foundation leader and southeast supervisor of affiliates, namely Durham CAN (Congregations, Assemblies, and Neighborhoods).

To hopefully give some background, I was coming in on a trip from home, a three hour drive (Monday morning) to work because we had to leave for the community service/service learning directors conference, but Mrs Anderson had a which I had no knowledge...because I thought we were supposed to be leaving at 1030 to arrive on while I was getting ready I got called into the meeting. With Durham CAN organizer, Chirs Bishop, and Gerald Taylor concerning a strategic planning of student leadership/skills training via ACSLP, well, not being sure my role, I intently listened, was asked my credentials by Gerald Taylor, then listened more. Not knowingly trying to belittle what Mr. Taylor was saying, I offered up some thoughts, as I usually do, regarding a different approach. Instead of critical thinking skills, which is what he wanted to dissolve into the training, I offered a new and really interesting leadership management type theory on 'opportunity thinking'...or otherwise intellectual optimism...basically an approach that focuses positivity instead of examining on 'problems'...on intellectual optimism you would search for benefits of a situation like what went right when you had a problem and you try to strengthen that; whereas in critical thinking you focus on what went wrong.

That was the wrong thing to say, at least I thought at the time, but in retrospect, I am glad I did because of my growth.

Gerald Taylor did not like what I said...and went on to say (paraphrase) that he was not teaching little games, these are real issues that are happening in our communities, people are dying....and pointed out to me that what I was saying was pretty silly and not appropriate....

Well, at the time, I felt smaller than an up-quark, muon, gluon, name it! Because I merely was trying to offer up my thoughts in a 'brain-storming' type of way, but it came off like I was criticizing what he was saying. The fact that I was playing games, jovially discussing this training as a means to test out a theory of leadership thinking.....really hit me hard....which led me to questions..

Do I just read theories and think I can just randomly push them through to people?
Am I looking for prestige by 'knowing' something obscure?
Do I really think I 'know-it-all'?
Who am I to think that I can offere up a better solution that this man, Gerald Taylor, who is a national leader for social justice and change?
Where do I fall in the 'making-a-difference-meter"?
Why do I care where I 'rank' in the making a difference meter?
Do I always talk and not 'act'?
Why did it hurt my feelings so bad?

I still have a knot in my stomach because of that encounter. I know I realize that people die everyday, bad things happen, and that i am strongly moved to do something about it, but why did I feel so inadequate in that moment when he responded to my suggestion? I have been criticized before, for good reason, and my suggestion was not ego-driven, but sincerely given for aid and contribution as I thought this particular suggestion about intellectual optimism.

I guess I am still reaching for that reality of understanding, but his comment has jolted me back into examining the reasons for me being where I am today.....I WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.....because...many things, my life experiences mostly though.

My summations lead me to the importance of constant humility...otherwise you start getting clouded and do start to sympathize instead of empathize. You lose feeling, but just see. People become object instead of subject.

I also just want to ask if you read this post, have you ever been in this 'knotted' place before? If so, how did it affect you? What keeps you grounded?

To anyone who reads this, thanks for listening...writing it out has helped me think about it.



Brian R. said...

You should never ever ever feel bad about sharing honest straight forward opinions. PERIOD. It's sad that their are so many arrogant people who only want confirmation of their ideas instead of creative challenging. Wanting real social justice requires humility and the ability to LISTEN and really RESPECT others ideas. Don't sweat that meeting Calvin. Really. Move on.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with someone "pushing" you to reexamine what you think. There's not even anything wrong with anger.

However, I've watched Gerald Taylor work before. He is very skillful at intimidating people into doing exactly what he wants.

You might want to ask him why the organizations that he started in Memphis and Knoxville failed. And why the one in Nashville is in trouble. And why the one in Atlanta changed its affiliation to a different organizing network than the one that Gerald represents. By the way, he will have a great excuse for all of these failures -- he will blame it on someone else.

You can learn a lot from Gerald -- I certainly did over several years. But you can also be ready to be used unmercifully. For someone committed to "social justice," he manipulates people and organizations incredibly. He overrules local leaders that have put a great deal of work into projects, changing the focus of the groups unilaterally.

Perhaps this is totally unneccessary, but please remember that the Kingdom of God will not come in any one person or organization. When I began to see Gerald and the IAF as "the only game in town" is when I really got messed up.


Anonymous said...

...... wanted to correct my earlier post. The organization in Memphis is still in existence. My points still stand.