The Making a Difference Dialogue

Last week was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. This year will also mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.  Our world has seen so much pain.  There is no people or country that has not suffered; there is no country or people that at some time have not inflicted suffering on others. Perhaps the hardest part to comprehend is how otherwise ordinary people, people who see themselves as good and ethical, can participate in the horrors of oppression and genocide, or else stand mutely by and do nothing.   Sometimes the weight of the world’s pain is overwhelming and my impulse is to withdraw into my own quiet and relatively safe world.  But then my conscience whispers in my ear to wake up and do something.  And if that doesn’t work it nags, and eventually shouts until I have no choice but to listen.  The question then becomes how to make a difference?  There are so many issues, so many people who need our help, so much pain.  I have relatives who have chosen to act on a larger stage – who write and speak and organize to bring about the change they believe in, and I am most proud of them.  My comfort zone is to work for change in smaller ways, helping to heal one family at a time, inspire one student, or change my own way of being in the world.  My personal belief is that there are many ways of healing our troubled world, and all are important.  The crucial thing is not to stay silent and frozen in powerless paralysis.  Eldridge Cleaver once said, “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”  This is as true now as it was in the 1960’s.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever your moral compass, you too have the power to make a difference.  And I do believe that we each have an obligation to do what we can.  So what does this have to do with relationships?  Political discussions, and involvement in changing the world could be a source of disagreement and stress in a relationship.  Or those very disagreements can enrich your conversations, and ultimately create a sense of shared meaning and purpose. This ongoing conversation can also be a wonderful way to model for children a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others. I offer the dialogue below as  a way to start the conversation and begin to explore ways in which you would like to empower yourself and your family as change agents in the world.

Instructions:  As always work to listen to each other with compassion and an open heart. Take turns sending (speaking) and receiving (listening)  Mirror (repeat back), each thought your partner shares.  When the first sender is done, let them know what makes sense to you about their thoughts, and how you imagine they are feeling.  Then hug, and switch roles.

The Making a Difference Dialogue

Is this a good time for a dialogue about making a difference in our world ?

One thing I appreciate about who you are in the world is….

One issue that concerns me is…..

What concerns me about it is……

When I think about this I feel……..

One way I can imagine making a difference is……

What excites me about this is……

What scares me about this is…..

The support I would like from you is……and I know this may be difficult for you.

If I (or we) could do this the way I think it would impact our relationship is …….. and I imagine that I would feel ………..

The impact I think it would have on our world (community, etc) is ……

Thank you for listening

Feel free to share in your comments the results of you dialogues.  And finally I share for your inspiration this empowering video of Dr. Edith Eger, a survivor of Auschwitz who has taken her personal pain and used it to heal others.

Posted by Laura

Laura Marshall, LCSW, is the founder and director of the Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy. Her experience spans thirty years of supporting couples and individuals to create healthy and meaningful lives and relationships. She is also adjunct faculty for the New Mexico Highlands School of Social Work. She lives with her husband Steve and five sons in Farmington, New Mexico.

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