For some reason, I am someone who attracts people who need to tell their most painful, gut-wrenching stories, who need to have their story lovingly heard and witnessed and honored without shaming or judging or fixing. People tell me stories that break my heart, stories that move me to tears, stories that evoke compassion and fill me with outrage, the ones that elicit an impassioned upwelling in my heart to make the world a safer place for tender, sensitive, deeply-feeling souls. I hear stories that wreck me about doctors who unwittingly abuse their power and harm the very people they’re here to serve. I hear people’s #MeToo stories about bosses who harassed or raped them and then threatened to fire them if they didn’t stay silent. I hear stories about police and lawyers who not only failed to protect an innocent person who had been violated; they abused or even wrongfully killed someone in that vulnerable state. I hear stories of priests who abuse their power and molest young children in the name of God. I hear countless stories of people whose parents and siblings molested them, violating the ultimate trust any child should be able to have for safety in one’s own family. I hear stories of people who have been traumatized by gurus and spiritual teachers and self-help authors who abuse their power and commit the most atrocious crimes against Love in the name of “I’m just helping you get rid of your ego.” I hear stories of people who are getting the crap beat out of them from spouses who say, “I love you.” [Lest you ever question this, THIS is not love. Don’t ever believe an abuser who gaslights you with “I love you” right after abusing you. This kind of psychological manipulation is as abusive and confusing as the emotional or physical violence. Love does not abuse power like this.]
What has happened to us as an animal species on this planet? How did we get where we are now? How can we be so sick that we tolerate mothers who beat their children and fathers who rape their little girls? How is it that our doctors are humiliating and berating and neglecting the needs of those they’re here to heal? How can it be that our schoolteachers cannot comfort our scared, vulnerable, grieving children with a simple hug because a hug could lead to rape?
Love demands that we grow big enough to say THIS NEEDS TO STOP. We as a species need to shift our relationship to power, and the #TimesUp. Yet how will this happen?
Listening to all these brutal stories might make me weary and cynical—or shut down and bitter—were I not able to hold these stories with tenderness in the expansiveness of our collective Heart. With a lot of help from therapists and spiritual teachers, I have learned to alchemize all this pain and transmute it into a cracked-open waterfall of compassion that bursts from my heart every time I hear one of these stories. The compassion includes not only those who have been victimized by abuse, but also compassion for the perpetrators, since they are obviously suffering too. Otherwise, humans would not be capable of committing such atrocities against each other.
As challenging as it is to come face to face with the ways human beings hurt each other, there is good news here. Love can grow big enough to hold all of this pain with gentleness—to see it and hold it and bear witness to it with compassion but also to call it out, set boundaries and enforce consequences. Love does not neurotically tolerate or prematurely forgive such abuse. Neurotic tolerance and premature forgiveness are simply, to quote Robert Augustus Masters, “conflict avoidance in holy drag.” Love can be as fierce and potent—from the heart—as it can be gentle, nurturing and compassionate. Love doesn’t demonize or ostracize the perpetrators of abuse, making them the unlovable “other.” Instead, Love expands to hold the abuser in great arms of love, which strip away and call forth everything that is not Love, holding those who violate Love accountable without demonizing them or failing to hold them in wrathful compassion.
Notice what’s happening in you as this collective Power Surge blasts through our culture. Pay close attention to how the influx of power you are likely feeling right now affects you. Does it make you want to lash out, judge, demonize, and hate those who abuse power? Or does it evoke the piercing, diamond-like sword of truth that uses Love’s ferocious face to cut away—with fierce grace—everything that is not Love?
Does it evoke feelings of judgmental righteousness? Does this rush of empowerment and righteousness make you feel justified to attack the abusers with shaming, humiliation and belittling, giving yourself an excuse to cast out the abusing “others,” so we can finally win the war against abuse? Or does it evoke a loving desire for peacemaking, accountability, reckoning, truth and reconciliation?
What if we can hold this paradox—rising fiercely in protest against those who abuse power, stopping this cycle of physical, sexual and emotional violence, yet refusing to stoop to the level of hating and ostracizing those who have been accused of abuses of power? As we have seen with the “war on terrorism,” if we cause violence to the violating offenders we’re trying to stop, do we not simply evoke more violence? What if there’s another way to reckon with this?
Yes, abuses of power need to stop. The #TimesUp and we as a collective are reckoning with what that means. But what if it’s not so simple as polarizing “the poor, helpless victim” against “the bad, evil abuser?”
Am I A Victim?
Lest you’ve been hurt and you’re tempted to cast me as someone who doesn’t understand what it feels like to be victimized, please don’t write me off that easily. I haven’t told the whole story because I don’t want to traumatize my young daughter with details she doesn’t need to hear yet, but I went through some horrific traumas last year—and I found myself in the firing line of abuse in a courtroom with people who were attacking me when I felt victimized and needed protection. It was tempting to demonize those who treated me abusively when I needed their compassion and care, to write them off as evil tormentors who were out to get me. Yet when I looked into their eyes and called them out, when I said, “Brother, can’t you see me? Sister, can’t you help me?” I saw that they couldn’t hold my gaze. They had to look away. Their hearts were all the way closed. They had to make me the enemy. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but I realized they were hurting even more than I was. They are victims of whatever caused their hearts to shut down. They have lost touch with their capacity to see the humanity in a fellow suffering soul, and I was invisible to them. Even when I stood fierce and strong, demanding that I be treated with respect, they didn’t trust me and respect me or even see me. The policeman himself, the one who should have protected me, was so lost and wounded that he failed to see my humanity. It made it hard for me to see his too.
I lost my battle in court, and I felt deflated, wrecked, traumatized—betrayed by a culture that doesn’t protect innocent victims. But I also know I am no helpless victim—and I don’t want anyone’s pity. Anyone who pities me disempowers me. My best friends spent the whole court case telling me, “I see you in your wholeness and I’m holding you there until you remember again.” That empowers me. Pitying me or casting me as some helpless victim makes me too small. The support of my loving Soul Tribe helped me avoid the temptation to diminish myself, to let myself get swallowed into a victim story. I was able to alchemize the pain into growth, but it demanded everything of me to avoid falling into a disempowered state of unhealed trauma.
Awakening The Fierce Feminine
The unexpected blessing of this trauma—which I’ve been healing with acute trauma therapy—is that the fierce feminine Mama Bear warrior in me came alive. RAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR…
I hadn’t realized how suppressed this ferocious Goddess energy had been in me. Everything in my childhood upbringing, in my Christian church conditioning, in my medical education—reinforced how I’m supposed to just push down anger, suppress outrage, suck it up in the face of injustice, and tolerate abuses of power. Going through this trauma awakened something in me that had been long dormant, and for this activation, I am grateful, even in the midst of the pain of what I experienced. The song Karen Drucker wrote for me—Thank You For This Gift Of Love—became my mantra, helping me resist falling into a pit of victimhood and helping me feel grateful for the Fierce Goddess that woke up in the wake of the trauma. (Listen to Karen’s song here.)
The Rise Of The Fierce Mama Bear
Instead of feeling victimized and paralyzed, what if the fierce, powerful Mama Bear warrior in a patient who is treated poorly by the doctor rises up and calls out the doctor for abusing the sacred holiness of the doctor-patient relationship? What if the people in spiritual communities whose leaders are abusing their power rise up in protest against how Love is being violated? What if everybody stopped tolerating their abusive, narcissistic bosses who mistreat them, demanding respect, equality, sexual safety and justice in the workplace? What if we just quit allowing politicians and bankers and CEO’s to abuse their power, prioritize greed and materialism, behave badly and get away with it? What if the time when husbands can abuse their wives and children and not wind up in jail is simply over? What if we look out for one another and stop turning a blind eye when we see abuses of power happening? What if we start setting boundaries and enforcing consequences for even the slightest abuse? What if the men who care join us—to protect us—in this fierce uprising? What if the time is really up? Then what?
I know this sounds naive, and not everyone is in a psychological, physical, and financial position to rise up and say THIS STOPS NOW. But what if a miracle happened and those who abuse their power suddenly found no vulnerable victims—because everyone stood up for themselves and said HELL NO? What if those who can’t stand up for themselves—the children, the disabled, the underprivileged—can trust that those who can rise up have got their backs and will not tolerate abuses of power any longer?
The Mothers Of The Disappeared
What if this must start with the women, if we allow the Fierce Feminine to possess us so She can strip away everything that is not Love, so she can growl and hiss and show her outrage at how Love is being abused—over and over and over? What if the Kali in us all identifies every area in our lives where we are feeling victimized by others who are not in integrity with their use of power, and we call it out and stop tolerating it? Let go of the good girl, the nice girl, the people-pleaser, the conflict-avoider, the easygoing, spiritual bypasser, the “I’m so spiritual that I’ll just forgive you—again and again and again.” Sure, forgive. But prosecute while you forgive. If you fight for what’s right and you lose, feel into the Mama Bear energy of the “Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina,” who have spent 40 years marching in protest against those in power who kidnapped and murdered 30,000 innocent people, including the children of these mothers. For 40 years they have been demanding justice, refusing to go away, unwilling to stand down until justice is served, unwilling to be silenced by a government that wants to pretend that genocide and mass murder did not happen in their country. 2000+ marches—and they’re still at it.
I’m not suggesting that this is the right path for everyone. Some of us need to accept what happened and move on. But thank Goddess there are still women fanning the flames of the Mama Bear who will not be intimidated and will not give up. Perhaps some of us could learn a thing or two from these brave, steadfast elders.
What Is Your Relationship With The Fierce Face Of Love?
Are you afraid of the Fierce Feminine or the Ferocious, Compassionate Protector of the Vulnerable within you? Are you willing to speak up? Say no? Get involved? Take risks? Dare to initiate conflict or be a whistle-blower or a shit-stirrer? I’m not suggesting we demonize or polarize. Just take charge of your birthright not to be abused—and help protect those who might not be as strong and courageous as you are.
Turn your gaze inward for just a moment. Who are you too lenient with right now? Where might fear or scarcity or conditioning be keeping you in an abusive situation? Where in your life might you be called to rise up and say HELL NO? Who might need your Mama Bear protection? What would need to change before you would feel like you could simply say NO to any further abuse?
Don’t forget to ask yourself where you might be the one abusing your power. Where are you lashing out at those who don’t fight back? Where is your passive-aggressive resentment causing you to harm others you say you care about? Let the Fierce Mama Bear hold yourself as accountable as you hold others.
What might happen if we all did what we must to stand fully, ethically and lovingly in our power—fiercely but compassionately demanding that those who are abusing their power stop? What then?
PS. If you feel the RAAARRRRRRR arising in you, and you feel called to do whatever it takes to unblock whatever is getting in the way of you fully stepping into your empowered, Divine self, we’re offering all 8 of my online courses on a Pay What You Can sliding scale until Friday night at midnight PST. [Explore all 8 programs here.] Now GO! Let your Love Growl be part of making this culture a more loving one so those who might be tempted to abuse their power know that we are rising together, no longer meek and mild, no longer tolerating abusive behavior, no longer smiling pretty and making nice, but also not leaving anyone out from this call to Love. Your Love is needed in both its gentle and fierce forms! May it pour out of you into a world that needs you now more than ever.
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