Let’s Change the World

I know that the idea of social change can be overwhelming at times. How we act, what we actually do is very much an individual process. The issues that you feel passionate about and wish to act on will not necessarily be the same as mine or the next person. Isn’t this great!! This is why we need many of us to work towards change – all in our own ways with our own passions.
I believe that all change hinges on three things – increasing our awareness, increasing our compassion and increasing our actions. If these were the only things we changed in how we all lived, I have no doubt that our lives and our world would change as a result.


Awareness is the opposite to ignorance. We have a long history of turning a blind eye to terrible injustices in our world and thus allowing them to continue unchallenged. But sometimes we are just not aware that a problem exists. In order for misuse of power to continue these two elements are usually present – there are those who are aware but ignore and those who simply do not know what is happening. In every case of genocide in the history of our world, some knew and turned away and others were unaware; in all cases of institutionalised sexual abuse, some knew and ignored and some had no idea what was occurring. Either way lack of awareness was involved in these awful events continuing for so long and harming so many.


It is important to say though, that lack of awareness is rarely the cause of injustice – if that is the only issue then we can quickly correct our mistakes once we become aware. But it also does not mean that if we are unaware that we are responsible for these issues existing or even for them continuing. However it is something that we can do now to make a difference – to become more aware of ourselves and our world – because this awareness will inevitable lead to action.


So how might we develop more awareness? As human beings we have a particular capacity for awareness that most other animals do not share – we are aware that we are aware. What this means is that we have the ability to reflect, to think about what we did, why we did it, how we might do it differently. This puts us as human beings in a strong position to create change. This capacity for reflection is key to increasing our awareness. When we reflect we immediately increase our conscious awareness and as a result we have more choices because we are more informed. This will inevitably lead to better decision making and more informed, and therefore more effective, actions.


Many of you will be familiar with the term ‘critical reflection’ although you may not all be aware of its meaning. Critical reflection means to challenge and question our existing beliefs and assumptions, to think about issues deeply and extensively. Critical reflection does not mean that we are critical or negative, it simply means that we are questioning, ‘thinking outside the box’, challenging our ideas and the way we believe things are in the world. This capacity for reflection, and for critical reflection, is key to how we can individually begin to work for change. To question and challenge the taken for granted assumptions that we have is a great tool for us all to use as we explore ourselves and our world.


Once we become aware, how we respond is equally crucial. If we respond with judgement then it is conceivable that our response will do further damage. If we respond with compassion, just our response in and of itself can be healing and productive. So what do we mean by compassion?


Compassion is about seeing the bigger picture of a person’s life and coming to understand it without judgement. It is all about asking why – why might this person behave like this, why might this person be in this situation. And accepting that it is not for us to judge because they have had a life time of experiences that has lead them to this point (and that if any of us had access to different / better choices I believe we all would all make better choices if we could, and if we don’t its usually because at that time, with what was available to us in that moment, we were unable to chose anything else. But this does not mean that this can’t change – but rather that we are better placed to work out how to change this.)


People often confuse compassion with providing excuses for people’s bad behaviour. It is definitely not that! Compassion provides an understanding without judgment, not an excuse. In fact I believe that if we are compassionate we are able to more effectively call people to account for their behaviour because there is no judgement.


The last point to make about compassion for now, is that compassion starts with us and our relationship with ourselves. If we can’t be compassionate to ourselves and apply the same depth of understanding to us, real change won’t be possible.


And now with our increased capacity for awareness and reflection and our responses fuelled by compassion rather than judgement, we are able to act in a way that affects change – in our own lives, in the lives of others and in our world.


This year WITADA has a special focus on what you and I can do to create a more peaceful and equitable world and we are launching our new series, ‘Let’s Change the World’. Our New Year post for 2016 focused on the importance of ‘doing something’ and being active in our commitment to social change. In coming posts we will explore practical things that we can each do in our daily lives as well as some of the things to keep in mind when we think about our role in social change. We will talk more about ways that we can act (with awareness and compassion of course!) to achieve change in the world and I look forward to your company on this journey as we change the world together!!


Let’s change the world together!