The Life Changing Art of Dialogue

August 26, 2018

"My goal is not to change anyone's mind or belief system.  My goal is to introduce you to different worldviews, so that we can support each other better.  As you know, being a certified peer specialist isn't about being right or wrong, but about connecting, learning, and supporting each other. This is what I love about being a CPS." Me, at the beginning of an LGBT Cultural Competency workshop.

Dialogue is part of my religion and I feel no shame in evangelizing.

I just got back last night from the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network's annual recovery conference, where I facilitated a workshop on LGBTQ Cultural Competency.  I am so proud of myself, so proud to be a CPS, so proud of my peers, and so proud of the company I work for.

Certified peer specialists are people in mental health recovery who have been trained in how to use our own lived experiences to support others in their own recovery journey. We believe everyone is their own expert. We do not give advice.  We do not try to change others' opinions to mimic our own.

We are hope-based, instead of fear-based.

The United States is ruled by fear today.  When we live by fear, hatred, anger and judgment result in violence, mental illness, oppression, bigotry, and fascism.

What working at the Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center has taught me is that moving towards connection is what should rule the United States, for it leads to wellness, growth and empathy.

Desperation. Fear. Impulsive. Violence. Anger. Hurting people shouting.

Love.  Connection. Faith. Curiosity.  Sharing.  Growth.  Compassion.  Empathy.

Not one person said one thing judgmental to me.  No one preached.  No one argued.

Later I overheard two people sharing their religious views and beliefs about LGBT people together.  Their opinions were not my opinions, but I was pleased that they were discussing their beliefs in a calm, respectful manner.  

We believe in dialogue.

I believe in dialogue.

Whatever happened to,

"We have nothing to fear except for fear itself?"

I am sad for my country that we have forgotten who we are.  I am sad that Christians have forgotten who we are.  While at the conference, I helped the R2ISE Theater interact with people through art.

Passion. Connection.  Joy. Love. Togetherness. Music.  Dance.  High energy.  Good vibrations.

When we see and hear horrible things happen and reported, shouting and screaming are not actually going to do any good or change many people's minds.

We keep doing the same things and expecting different results.

"You are bad! You are wrong! Listen to me as I yell at you!"

Shouting matches appease and satisfy our own egos, but I do not believe they actually help very much.

"Who do you love? Why? What is your passion? What is your life like? What connects us together?"

Open ended questions opens people's hearts. Art, creativity, imagination, music, writing, and music bring people together.

Jesus was a storyteller.  He was a carpenter.  He made things with his hands and with his words. He was an artist creatively bringing people together.  Artists of hope may often be killed by the disturbed state but their legacies live far past the reign of a single dictator.

I read an article this week that stated that right now in our polarized world, people have a choice-to follow the low, harmful vibrations of fear or generate the high, bright, lovely vibrations of love and connections.  I experienced powerful vibrations Wednesday night, vibrations similar to ones I felt in the last hospital stay.  Deep connections came easily; I felt high on nothing but positivity.

I know I probably sound horribly cheesy and new age-y,  but if this way of being and thinking brings me and the others around me joy, then I see no problem.

Are we going to let the world fade into a cloud of fear or are we going to let our light transform the darkness?

I think it is time for me to reread Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire and dedicate myself again to the art of dialogue:

“It is necessary that the weakness of the powerless is transformed into a force capable of announcing justice. For this to happen, a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.” 

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