7 BRAVING steps to Being the Light

I've been thinking a lot about Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's "The Hill We Climb" amidst the backdrop of civil unrest and conflicting social media versions of the events around the election. As Americans, we are most certainly in a struggle to create our version of democracy, an understanding that varies by race, creed, and culture:

.. "We are striving to forge a

union with purpose,

to compose a country

committed to all cultures,

colors, characters and

conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze not

to what stands between us,

but what stands before us.

We close the divide because

we know, to put our future


We must lay down our

differences aside.

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our


to one another..."

So how to do that? How to do that when family members insist the FBI fabricated the Capitol riot? How to do that when friends believe the COVID virus is a plot to control the masses? How to do that when a beloved political party has factions that insist the Presidential election was stolen by states breaking their state's constitutions? How do we, Americans, overcome the political hacks, spin doctors, and social media conspiracies?


Brené Brown, a social science researcher, studies shame and soft issues like trust. To walk together, as Amanda Gorman suggests, will require faith. But how to trust, have confidence in the other? Brown suggests we need eight traits to form trust: (BRAVING) Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgement, and Generosity.

1-BOUNDARIES: We will need to know ourselves, and when we are unsure, be vulnerable enough to ask clarifying questions of ourselves and others. We will need to stay curious.

2-RELIABILTY: We will need to do what we say and not overpromise.

3-ACCOUNTABILITY: We will need to own our mistakes and apologize.

4-VAULT: We will have to hold the other's vulnerabilities as sacred and not exploit them.

5-INTEGRITY: We will have to choose "courage over comfort," practicing our values, not just professing them.

6-NONJUDGMENTAL: We will have to be honest and courageous and ask for what we need and be willing to hear others' needs without judgment.

7-GENEROSITY: And finally, we will need to be generous in our interpretation of others' intentions, actions, and words. We will have to look for the other's better angels. And perhaps most challenging, this will not be done in a distant city by elected officials. Finding each other, reconnected our families, friends, and communities will have to be done by you and me. It will be a million one-on-one vulnerable conversations, that included those we would rather dismiss, disregard, or make into other by nicknaming them. 


So be courageous and have intimate conversations with people with different points of view. It will take time to recreate a trust environment, but make the intention to reconnect and act within the principles of creating trust.  Reach out to family members, community members, and friends and have the vulnerable discussions you’ve been avoiding. Be willing to go into the fire and listen with an open heart. Be loving to yourself, as you feel your defensiveness and fear arise. (Know that you were born worthy, there is no worth to prove or affirm, and no feeling is permanent. Use that knowledge to stabilize your emotional responses.) Let go of shame in what has come before and recommit to a new future. Look for common ground, our shared ideals. Look for the better angels. 


We are all coming out of 2020 frightened, alienated, and craving connection. So much has dissolved. Now is the time to remake our relationships on a cornerstone of shared humanity and trust values (BRAVING). We need to look for each other's better angels, even though we are tired and frightened. As Amanda Gorman says, as we climb this hill, we must be the light. 

"When day comes we step

out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid,

the new dawn blooms as we 

free it.

For there is always light,

if only we are brave enough

to see it.

If only we're brave enough

to be it."

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