So I found myself getting philosophically woken up at the LGBT business owners conference when I heard this quote that fits the posture I want to take perfectly:
"We need in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers."
Why do I think it's the perfect posture for changemaking? More after the jump...
Angelic: the dictionary says something along the lines of "divine" "innocent" "pure" "virtuous" "saintly". I think it's the right focus because a change agent has to be beyond reproach with transparently good intentions. When your cause is for good and you measure your worth in terms of impact, people respond. What will gum up the works is any whiff of personal gain. Angels are both beyond reproach and visibly characterized for all of this goodness, and therefore, this word is exactly perfect.
Troublemakers: the dictionary says this is someone who causes difficulties or problems, especially through defiance of authority. On it's own that is horrible. We don't like these people and often their intentions are viewed as malicious. Children who are troublemakers are reprimanded, sometimes severely if they are consistent about it. But what resonates about this word when it comes to changemaking is that you feel like a troublemaker when you're doing this work. All the time. Even when I'm 100% confident it's both better for the organization and society, the status quo is heavy and either I feel like I'm out on a limb all by myself or someone is telling me I'm "aggressive" for making the business case succinctly for it. I'm uncomfortable constantly because what I'm asking and advocating for has never been done before and therefore the risk-taking part of my identity is constantly working. On it's own, troublemaker is not a virtuous role. But combine it with the word angelic and frame it in a nonviolent peaceful protest for advancing civil rights (or environmental and social causes), and you have the perfect combo.
Sometimes a quote comes to you at the time you most need to hear it. That is this quote for me. I've been reading and watching a lot of Brene Brown, I've been re-reading Henry David Thoreau, I've been finding and sometimes struggling with my own posture in trying to do this work. This is it.
So I give it up to the lion of civil rights Bayard Rustin who lived courageously during a time where that meant severe penalty. Your courage is not lost in history. You continue to inspire. And as usual, my POTUS with the MOSTUS has preceded me and already given you this long overdue and worthy recognition in the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. Bless.