Every day that I dig into the news, my synapses fire like crazy, and I analyze and want to know more about so many stories. Often I don’t have time to go all the way down the rabbit hole, so I have learned to employ the adage that you don’t have to know everything to say something. Life experience, critical thinking, and good intention go a long way, and I’d rather live in a world that knows how to express itself, as well as listen to different perspectives. So with that said, the John Gruden story caught my ear this week…
From a high level view, leaders are responsible for the culture they create. Gruden is a leader, the standard is and should be high. Given the email conversations that were released, whether you see them as conversations between a close knit group of guys or professional correspondence, these were not his finest moments. If I said those words, they would hurt coming out of my mouth, and coming from the information released, they didn’t for him, so it’s a clear that there was ‘a way’ between these guys that made that kind of talk normal. From a more global perspective, these words and attitudes certainly don’t build inclusive culture. But the standard of judgment should be the same across the board and it’s not. When I hear music with lyrics that are sexually explicit, mysogonistic, or racial in any way, it always jars my system. As humans though, people show who they are over time reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of those actions. In almost every respect, no one should be defined by one day or moment in their lives, but patterns prove a point. The NFL has had many issues that run deep ranging from domestic violence, entitlement culture, and bigotry of many kinds, Gruden’s words are just the tip of the iceberg in the hierarchy of too many power structures. If we were to comb email accounts across this country for the past 10 years, we would find a lot of demeaning language and human frailty emerge. No one is perfect, but the bigger question is why do we say offensive things and how can we evolve past so that our words and our values line up more often.
Mindfulness is the key to real inclusion. When we are able to slow our mind down and better regulate ourselves emotionally, our words and our values will align more often. When we are triggered or upset, we make statements and express ourselves in ways that cause pain to others. The more mindful we become, we feel the pain that these words cause to ourselves as well.
Just because something has “historically been this way” doesn’t mean it should stay this way. That is the key to evolution and enlightenment. But the standard should be the same for everyone. It is incumbent upon each of us to break whatever harmful norms are part of our past or culture and see the way forward that brings people together, no matter what their differences.
Anytime two groups are pitted against each other as the oppressed and the oppressor, there will be a sense of entitlement and of hopelessness and victimization, and neither perspective serves anyone’s long term growth. I liked a point I heard recently from Ryan Holiday on this podcast (around minute 36) about the difference between responsibility and accountability. Our responsibility is to understand where we came from and how to make it better, but we are not accountable for the decisions of people who lived 300 years before us. If we understand this difference it is where healing takes place.
Gruden is both responsible for his words, and a scapegoat for a bigger cultural problem. Until we take it upon ourselves to build a culture that has the ability to lift everyone, regardless of where generations before us have been, there will be division and the inability to connect with each other as human beings instead of members of segregated groups. I know firsthand that there are people out there who don’t talk like what we heard this week…we just don’t talk about them. What’s the standard? And in the same breath I ask, how are we going to stop being so easily offended, because there isn’t one of us who hasn’t said something we aren’t proud of? Answer the question, am I elevating the conversation with my words and actions? If the answer is yes, keep going, if it’s no, then change it now, for yourself and everyone around you. The conversations I have every week as I connect with other people, often with opinions different from mine, prove to me that the stories of regular people are much better than the ones we hear in the news, and that’s why I take the time to speak, write, listen and get a little better every day.
With Love & Optimism,