As the fallout from male misbehavior continues to spread, I have been thinking about what the future holds.
Having been a criminal defense attorney and worked in the addictions field, no heinous act surprises me. Monsters exist. Evil lurks beneath appearance. Animal impulses overwhelm.
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In my professional life, I have worked with extraordinary men at the national, state and local levels. Our complementary perspectives, life experiences and skills led to effective partnerships.
In my personal life, I experienced incest, rape, and domestic violence. These experiences and the journey of recovery taught me much about human nature.
Listening to the many gymnasts detail their abuse and crippling symptoms has been difficult.
Hearing the stories of those exploited in Hollywood and other industries has been painful.
Economic dependence and childhood make us vulnerable to power abuse.
How did we get here? What is the answer? These questions are haunting.
My sense is when women and men step up as partners, we will no longer tolerate, accommodate, ignore nor deny power abuse. Power derives from many sources – position, knowledge, money, beauty, relationship and strength. We can all be tempted to abuse power for short-term, self-centered gain.
Self-awareness, self-mastery, integrity – the alignment of body mind and spirit – are key elements of a developmental journey all humans take or don’t. Some get stuck; some live-in circumstances where reality demands survival of the fittest behavior.
Some figure out how to numb out with addictions so they can’t hear the inner voice, the one that challenges us when we forget who we are and what matters most.
Today, I blame no one. Time and healing have taught me that people do what they believe is right based upon their level of consciousness. While Viktor Frankel retained his agency in Auschwitz, most could not. While I could release a victim perspective, many are unable to do this, as they lack the resources and support to do so.
Their identities remain fused to what happened or what they did to survive.
The world I see emerging aligns with the founding ideals of our country, where the intrinsic value of every person is seen, respected and supported.
A world where we foster personal and collective responsibility.
A world where the most able choose to serve instead of exploit.
A world where we honor both those with the kindest hearts and those with elite abilities as equally important to a great community.
The solution rests in us – every individual. Do my decisions reflect a world based upon survival of the fittest or we the people? Americans are special in an important way. We are challenged to co-create a civilization based upon principles and aligned actions.
Why – what makes our country different? “Endowed by our creator.”
When Thomas Jefferson wrote those words in the Declaration of Independence, he was attempting to capture the American mind – not just his own. Inalienable rights, created equal – these beliefs emerged from a deep understanding that there was something greater than the individual; that we did not create ourselves.
While there were and are differing opinions as to what this means, the principle was widely shared and a personal search for understanding was considered private.
People from across the world have been drawn to and committed to this vision for centuries.
Neuroscientists can now explain why some embrace unity and seek harmony and others become tribal, greedy and destructive. They can explain what conditions foster which end of the spectrum. Our choice is whether we are willing to work together to create conditions where individuals actualize their potential and develop their character or we default and allow some to lose their way.
Had we ensured our public education focused on both – the inner and outer journeys – more boys would have become men and more girls would have become women. We have allowed too many to get stuck developmentally whether cognitively, emotionally, socially or spiritually.
True partnership offers a path forward, and it is up to each of us to both be the change and take action.
Deborah Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.