“Spirituality is not possible without vulnerability.” - Brené Brown
Do you ever feel like you are a fraud? Or that your organization is a fraud? Like you aren’t embodying what you claim to be? Maybe those insecurities can sometimes help our work and organizations become more effective.
“In fact, you are a fraud,” a Quaker elder said to me, in response to my concerns about how a training about nonviolence that I had just led went.
“Ouch,” I thought. She went on, “You are personally a fraud sometimes, but the message of nonviolence that you are carrying is true.” She pointed out the necessary tension between the aspirations I was following and my limited abilities. If I didn’t feel this painful tension, I might be in trouble. At this time, I was avoiding conflict on many fronts, while also teaching others to nonviolently and proactively lean into conflict. The night before this particular training, I had invented a whole new model for teaching conflict resolution. I thought it was brilliant. The participants in the training didn’t agree.
I still sometimes feel like a fraud. Much of my work now seeks to support groups to get their egos out of the way so they can effectively serve a purpose greater than narrow self-interest. As I do this work, my ego is frequently alive, kicking, and defensive, acting as an obstacle for the work I’m doing. Recent experiences have reminded me of this.
For several years, I’ve been fortunate to meet on a regular basis with elders from my Quaker community, who provide spiritual support and accountability for the work I am doing. They both help me admit where I’m feeling like a fraud, and they help me reorient myself away from downward spirals of criticism to humble steps to move in the directions I’m called.
I often pray to be molded and shaped. The Quaker elders that I meet with have reminded me that sometimes the shaping of my clay can involve God taking away chunks of who I think I am, or adding new pieces. Some recent experience where I’ve felt like a fraud, or felt rejected, or felt insufficient seem to be a part of this process, an invitation to burn away parts of myself that are getting in the way.
I encourage organizations I work with to quickly develop prototypes of their visions and then fail early and often to maximize learning and keep improving the services they are offering. The universe has been reminded me in the past month to seek out risk and failures in my own consulting work, to maximize my learning and shaping. So with this post, I want to say back to the universe, “Bring it on!”