Okay, isn’t it weird when you’re reading a whole book that is advocating for something you’ve been doing for years without all the cool resources they’re citing to prove the value of your choices?!?! Lol, my grad school reading strikes again. Here’s the idea: in order to live a full, whole life, you have to find a way to stay soft. This book (Leadership on the Line - Heifetz & Linski) talks about this throughout, but in the chapter I just had to summarize for a class, it called this process of staying soft “protecting your sacred heart.” For one, I love the term “sacred heart” because I grew up with Catholic grandparents and that phrase always makes me think of Catholic communities. But more importantly, I have written this just with different words! I have called this my “sacred space.” I’ve talked about the importance of not letting anyone speak into your sacred space. This is your soul! We must be the filter of what comes in and out of this holy place. I have learned how to draw boundaries around people trying to tell me who I am or what my intentions are based on their assessment of me. I don’t mean that we can’t listen to other people. But I have a tendency to ONLY listen to other people, hence the entire purpose of this blog, to learn to hear myself. Others sometime have such a strong sense of self that they plow ahead without regard for others. Perhaps that person could work in the other direction, of listening to feedback from others just to be more sensitive to the impact they’re making. I’m learning now, not to ignore the feedback of others (hello black and white brain) but to hold it at arm’s length. I get to choose what I internalize. The things I let shape me are things I’ve approved, the things that I’ve sat with and have come to recognize as having value in some way.
Here are a couple of cool quotes about sacred heart. “Leading with an open heart helps you stay alive in your soul. It enables you to feel faithful to whatever is true, including doubt, without fleeing, acting out or reaching for a quick fix.” (p. 230). Also, “a sacred heart means you may feel tortured and betrayed, powerless and hopeless and yet stay open. It’s the capacity to encompass the entire range of your human experience without hardening or closing yourself. It means that even in the midst of disappointment and defeat, you remain connected to people and to the sources of your most profound purposes.” (p. 230 as well). So freaking cool! It reminds me of Brene Brown’s work on whole-hearted living.
The full-circle of this reading is that it’s about leadership. My business life is all about leadership. And I used to be in church leadership. But I didn’t quite realize that in doing my writing, the work I do in this space, I’m actually exerting leadership. I forget that leadership isn’t always a role granted but a practice you demonstrate. This blog is where I do a lot of my sacred heart work. This is the space where I publicly process my pain in order to find my way back to my softness. It’s where I’m learning to practice boundaries, sifting through my past and challenging my perfectionist, black and white thinking. I’m literally trying to find the space between total input and no input. And I’m a pendulum learner (is everyone?) I went from having no boundaries and letting everyone in to having really hard boundaries where I didn’t know how to honor myself and take negative feedback. I think I’m slowly coming to a semi-middle space? I don’t know. I’m hopeful.
The second quote talks about remaining “connected to people and to the sources of your most profound purposes.” I can’t help but think about the churches of Christ. I was all in for years and then I got booted out and I had a lot of pain to sift through. And I found a new home in the UCC. But here I am, in a grad program with church of Christ roots. I’m reading about leadership and my sacred heart. And I just wonder. I don’t expect to ever live in full community with the churches of Christ again, meaning, I don’t see myself leading or attending one. But I’ve been wishing good things from afar this whole time. Now I’m coming to this place where maybe I can see that my original people can still be my people in some ways? It’s so easy to chuck the whole thing out when you really face your pain. Sometimes I question when people start in a middle ground if they’ve actually sat in their feelings. If you’re rational right out the gate, I have to wonder. But that could just be me being judgemental. I think it’s normal in grief to have extreme reactions.
And I’ve inevitably tied my conservative church heritage with conservative politics. Can I make room at the table for Republicans? I think so? I at least want to be able to have conversations. I want to have conversations that aren’t meant to convince or prove. I desire real engagement. I’ve drawn a lot of boundaries around having intense political conversation because it’s so stressful and feels very personally (why is always family?) But I dream of a day that the citizens of this country work to really listen to each other. I’d love to learn and to help others learn through boundaried, respectful exchange. I have to hope that’s possible. But if I want it to be possible, I have to start with me. I must engage this extremism of my black and white thinking, to be open to change and to see all my fellow men and women as human beings, not “others.”