It was 2013. I’d just opened my private practice as a therapist after working as a substance abuse counselor for a couple of years. My practice was in a conservative part of Texas and I was one of the few therapists who specifically and openly welcomed in members of the LGBTQ community.
My practice soon filled with all kinds of people from all walks of life – same sex couples, trans men and trans women, first generation immigrants, addicts and alcoholics, Christians, non-Christians, those searching for a spiritual path, and anyone and everyone in between.
Session after session, I sat across from these people who were all deeply hurting in their own way. They felt broken and broken-hearted and the more time I spent with all of these people, the more my heart opened even more for humanity because no matter their background, I began to realize we’re all so much the same.
I heard stories of heartbreak and abuse, trauma and fear, anxiety and depression, tough decisions and shameful pasts. I heard about hopes and dreams and those who felt too beaten down to hope or dream again. I heard stories about God and meaning and purpose and truth and those who wanted so deeply to find their path. I heard human stories from all kinds of humans.
So, with all the things going on in our government and politics right now, a lot of the rights that are being threatened don’t impact me personally. It’d be easy for me to remain in my bubble and stay silent, but then I think of all those beautiful people I’ve spent hours with in the trenches working on their lives and their joy and their hearts and their healing and I can’t sit back and leave them on their own. It goes against my value of benevolence.
When you spend a good amount of time with people who are different than you, who have different beliefs than you, who are willing to share their experience with you, you have a different perspective. You start to look beyond skin color, sexual orientation, religion, and politics and see the person, the heart that’s underneath it all. You start to see that we all want the same thing – to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to be loved.
And I know deeply how important that’s been to me – the judgment I’ve faced, the shame I’ve felt, the long trenches I’ve walked to reclaim myself and start to trust myself again – has all been a quest to be more loved. So when I see judgment and shaming in our politics today and the way one person’s ideals are trying to shape our laws to tell other people who have different beliefs what should be right or wrong for them, it does feel personal because although it may not judge or shame me, it’s judging and/or shaming people I’ve helped and known and loved.
The value of benevolence (and non maleficence) is to do good and do no harm, but for me, it’s so much more than that. It’s putting myself in other people’s shoes, it’s connecting to their life experiences even when they are drastically different than my own, it’s standing up for people’s right to make decisions that are in line with their own values and beliefs because I know how important that is to feel whole and sacred and true to oneself and how absolutely necessary that is to feel free.
So, as a woman I admire so much says, “we all belong to each other”, I know this to be true. We’re all so much more the same than we are different. We all want to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to be loved, to be free. And I believe in my heart of hearts that we all have a compassionate core when we can remove ourselves from our own fears and not take others decisions as a personal attack against our own.
I’m working on becoming more and more nonjudgmental every single day because I know judgment is only fear of what we don’t understand and I know deeply what it feels like to be misunderstood. Don’t you? We all do. Because we’re all humans.