Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

I’m in the woods with my grandfather. I’ve never met him. He died when my dad was not even eleven. He was a member of a resistance movement in the Netherlands during WWII, betrayed, arrested by the Nazi’s, and dead after ten days in prison.

He stood up for his principles and was willing to risk his life for his values: compassion, inclusion, care for those who are vulnerable.

As a child, every May 3, the night before our national commemoration day, I would sneak downstairs and take out a book with his name, picture and short bio. It contained the names everyone in Limburg who had given their lives standing up for love, peace, and justice. I never told anyone I did. My grandfather was a secret hero in my life, one that I looked up to with awe and reverence.

I admired him and aspired to be like him: courageous, fearless, and truthful.

I always fell short of my hero image of him. I never went to a war zone and rescued people. I never offered myself to take the death penalty so the convict could live, I hardly ever showed up as a silent witness when someone was executed. I have a client scheduled, I have to clean, I am too tired.

Gosh, all those things that I hold dear and don’t act upon.

During the Mediate Your Life retreat, I realize I need his help. I need his help to find balance between my aspirations and my fear of scarcity. I decide to spend half an hour in the woods each day for the next two weeks.

I invite myself to bring a bag with my meditation bell, my journal, and my pen. I carry it on my left shoulder and look to the right when I speak as Elly, and swap it to my right shoulder and look to the left when I speak as him.

I feel uncomfortable at first. It seems too forced and unnatural. I much rather speak out loud as Elly and respond in silence as my grandfather, than this left-right stuff. And I’m willing to give it a try. I’ve heard it helps.

And it does. I tell him how much I admire him and how sad and scared I feel about the continuous failure to live up to my self-imposed standards of courage and commitment. I shift to the right position and look myself -as my grandfather- in the eyes. I hear him say “You have a unique quality  ‘zachtmoedigheid’. That’s where your power is and your leadership lies: the balance between soft and tender (=zacht) and courage (=moedig). Don’t try to be Pat, Joe, Ike, or John. Be yourself. That’s more than enough, and that’s what this world needs most.”

Be myself. Acceptance, support, and appreciation. Never expected that from him.


You want help to transform your hero image into self-acceptance? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.

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