Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Where is the we in me?

Where is the We in Me?

Probably not in my thought that he abuses his power to exclude others. Nor in the thought that she should listen before she speaks. And certainly not in the thought that they should change their minds at minimum, if not their hearts.

I recognize all those thoughts as us-versus-them thinking. Right-wrong. Better-worse. More compassionate versus less compassionate (ouch, how can I think that as a student of Thich Nhat Hanh?).

And yet, my life would be so much simpler if I see myself as the protector of the underdog, and “THEM” as the bullies. What can I say? I fight for all that is good and pure, for inclusion and compassion, for mindfulness and loving speech. And they? They want more power. They want to exclude anyone they don’t like. They want to operate in secrecy. It makes all my anxiety, anger, and self-righteous indignation acceptable. Who wouldn’t be upset in the face of such ill-intent?

I am pretty sure that, since I have such an abundance of compassion, mindfulness and empathy, I should teach them to open their hearts, listen, and include everyone. I should show them how to transform our community in a delightful place of peace, harmony and joyful connection. I, me, Elly van Laar, the compassionate one, has the wisdom and they should listen.


So in my quest to make sure that everyone is heard, even those that speak in pretty unpleasant terms, I shut others up? In this mission to see us all as one, I am actually seeing us as the “we” party and them as the “them” party? In my care for the underdog (at least, in my view) I forget to care for the perceived bullies?

What if they are not the enemy? What if there are no underdogs and no bullies? What if I drop the compassion competition? What if there are just people who do their best  within the limitations they have? Who sometimes act and speak in ways I don’t like, and who always deserve a chance for understanding, support, acceptance, love, and belonging? What if I try to expand my inclusion to those I see as the bullies?

Gosh, I imagine I start listening to the “bullies”. I imagine I move over to their side and try to get what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. I imagine I see the beautiful, universal needs behind their feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and exasperation. I imagine I understand the values behind their unwillingness to enter into yet another dialog.

Yep, that’s where I should start. With listening.

Listening to understand. Not to reply. Just listening.

That is where I find the we in me

You want to learn to see the we in you? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Self-compassion, day 11: Love, light and life

CandleAt the Christmas eve celebration with Unity Center Austin we lit a candle for each apostle, and recited a meditation to reinforce their qualities in us. The last candle was for Judas.

I cry. I feel so moved that we include the one person whom we consistently have excluded throughout history. I feel so touched that we honor him, that we acknowledge him as a source of inspiration.

I once read an article about Jesus and Judas. New research showed a different perspective on Judas, “the traitor”. It described how Jesus and Judas talked about the kingdom of God. That it is the kingdom of thís present moment. Of being fully alive with whatever is. Of being fully present with our suffering, feeling it, saying “yes” to it. That it is the kingdom of our vision, our dreams, our soul’s calling. Of holding on to what is true for us, what we envision for the world, even if all circumstances might indicate it is impossible. It is the kingdom of asking for what we need, and knowing we’ll receive it.

Jesus and Judas discuss how reluctant people are to enter this kingdom. How hard it is to give up on the habitual patterns of fear, of holding back, of not trusting we can reach for the stars. For all the miracles in the world, people are still blind to the truth that embracing the present moment and holding on to our dreams transforms suffering into light, life and love.

Something more radical needs to happen. They come up with a plan that will lead to Jesus’ crucifixion, so he can resurrect after three days. That should be powerful enough to open people’s eyes. Judas is willing to be the one who betrays Jesus. He shares Jesus’ vision of transforming suffering. So deeply that he is willing to be rejected, excluded and ostracized in pursuit of this dream. Jesus trusts Judas enough to know that Judas will stick to the plan, and not back off when the going gets tough.

We all know the rest of the story. We repeated it for 2000 years. Last night we celebrated his existence and his contribution to our well-being. We included him in our acknowledgment and affirmation of love, life and light. I felt touched and honored to have been there.

I wish you a merry Christmas, may your dreams come true.


If you want my help to deepen your self-compassion, healing and integration, contact me for a complimentary, discovery session.