Fostering Lesson 11. Challenge & Resistance
Summary of skill
- Our task as spiritual leaders is to meet challenge and resistance with listening and hospitality rather than defensiveness or “matching” resistance.
- Shift your awareness away from the “struggle’ or “the other person” and move your awareness into your physical body, emotions, and thoughts.
- Observe your own reactivity, process it, and move into a centered, grounded, listening space.
- It can be helpful to ask the question to yourself, “What is being expressed on behalf of the larger whole/community? How is this important to me, to this person, and to the whole?”
- Discussion: In fostering spiritual community, inevitably you will meet challenge and resistance, both “externally” (from other people, events, etc) and “internally” (from within yourself). Some of it will be conscious, and some unconscious, meaning slippery, you can’t put your finger on it, something not quite right but it eludes you, and direct action or dialogue does not seem to be doing any good. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if there are deadlines or other pressures on you, or of which you are aware. And, the other person’s perspective may be quite foreign, different from yours.
- “No” can take different forms. You may be so caught up in your perspectives that you perceive “no” as a personal threat, or an inconvenience to getting on with the “real business,” etc. A different perspective is that “no” means “please slow down or stop, and listen.” “Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves.”—Peter Block, Community, p. 132
- It can help to have some strategies in place to “pull out” when you need them. “Hospitality is the welcoming not only of strangers, but also of the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them.”—Ibid,, p.131
- To listen for the gift and teaching of the “no”—to find the useable energy that is being offered to you—you may first need to deal with your own resistance, your own “no” reacting to the incoming “no.” If it’s too “hot” a situation for you to handle with grace, buy yourself time with a promise, ‘I will get back to you about that.” And then take the time to do your personal inner work of self-care and reflective practice. Here is an example of what that might look like in this kind of situation.
- Take your awareness off the other person or the situation. Pull your energy back to yourself. Notice your own reaction, look for rigidity, defensiveness, fear, attachment. Center yourself. Observe.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- “Am I in shape to use this energy? If not, what do I need to do to care for myself?”
- “What am I holding on to?
- “Who or what am I defending against?”
- “Who is betraying?
- “Whom am I betraying?”
- Pay particular attention to how this episode might relate to disowned parts of yourself. For example, what are you grieving that has not yet expressed? What is still unforgiven from your past?
- Partner exercise: Discuss a situation in your community in which you have experienced challenge and resistance, and not handled it gracefully or welcomed it with hospitality. Partner, ask the questions above (and/or any others that seem appropriate) in a calm, centered, gentle way at appropriate moments in the dialogue, and when you are not asking questions, practice Active Compassionate Listening; switch roles
Resources for reflection & discussion
- Stephen Mitchell trans.,Tao Te Ching, Poem #76
- Newton Dillaway, Consent, pp. 36 – 37
- Dissent as a way into belonging, Peter Block, Community, “The Possibility, Ownership, Dissent, Commitment, and Gifts Conversations”, pp. 123 – 143
- Starhawk, The Empowerment Manual pp. 99-100, constructive critique