My “Single Story” of Bias

I called a big software company yesterday for support. I had just purchased a new subscription for software and could not figure out for the life of me how to set it up.  So by the time I had a chance to speak with a real person I was frazzled and frustrated.

To make matters worse, the support person pronounced my name incorrectly so I promptly correctly him. He quickly apologized. I had a very difficult time understanding his accent as he tried to walk me through the steps to resolve my issue and get me started. I was having a hard time following his instructions. So as is natural, he started speaking louder as if I was hard of hearing.  I said, you don’t have to raise your voice, I can hear you but I don’t understand you.  As it turns out, he admitted that he was having trouble with my southern accent also.  What?

I asked the young man where he was from and he replied, “the United Kingdom”.  Then I asked again, “Where are you from originally?”.  Shyly he responded, Ghana.  The young man was from Ghana, a country in West Africa with a population of 25 million.  His name was Emmanuel.

At that moment  I was aware of our shared humanity. I call these moments “oh shit” awareness moments. I realized that we were both doing our best in a challenging situation.  And in that moment, I was reminded of a Nigerian novelest, who has written an important piece about the danger of a single story.  It is a Ted talk that is well worth your time: 

I told Emmanuel about the wonderful novelist, Chimamanda Adichie who was very funny and bright.  I suggested he listen to her talk. When I admitted that I was expressing my bias towards him, Emmanuel  softened.  He admitted that he was doing his best to help me. I told Emmanuel that I appreciated how patient he was being with me, and I was sorry that I had been difficult because I was so frustrated.

Chimamnanda translated means “God can never fail” and Emmanuel translated means “God with us”.  I am blessed by an important lesson from 2 different people from 2 very different countries in Africa. What a lovely gift that I can take with me to consider how I express my bias and how I want to change.


Compassion and Forgiveness as a Spiritual Practice

cropped-20130630_190201.jpgI heard (His Holiness) the Dali Lama say that we do not all need to be Buddhist, but it is important that we all have a spiritual practice. To experience spiritual enlightenment, on an individual level we must practice something.  In this time of escalating violence in the name of “religion” I appreciate the wisdom of the Dali Lama.

The Dali Lami has a commitment to the human values of compassion and forgiveness, he has a commitment to his Tibetan culture and a commitment to religious harmony.  “As a Buddhist monk, I have a responsibility to work for harmony among our various religious traditions. We share common aims and common practices……Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other’s respective traditions.”

So what? For me, the day-to-day practice of my spirituality includes compassion and forgiveness in all of my relationships. This is not easy, especially when it comes to forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a paradox. If I do not choose to forgive but hold on to past hurts, I can not move on with my life in that area.  Ironically, the only person who suffers in this scenario is me.

As an element of my spiritual practice, it’s time to take an inventory of my life and see where this might apply. If I look inward and become aware of the relationships where I have not forgiven myself or someone else, therein lie juicy possibilities for change. This is the space I control and can choose to walk in a way that is more compassionate to myself and others.

The Journey Inside is Warm

I don’t remember it being 20 below in Michigan in the 16 years I’ve lived here, but then I’m a southern gal and have never experienced a winter like this one. Hard core Michiganders who grew up here have lots of fun stories of the big snows of the past.  Lynne’s  husband, Bill told me that he remembered a winter when he had to climb out a window of his home to shovel the snow that had drifted in front of the door just to get outside.

So its no surprise that we all had to cozy inside during our leadership retreat this past weekend. While it was brutally cold outside, we were toasty inside the Inn at the Rustic Gate with warm drinks and delicious, healthy food.  Our time together was spent reflecting deeply on our essence. Symbolically speaking, looking inside is the work of our Leader Journey program – while nourishing our bodies we also nourish our minds and souls. We uncover who we are so that we can tap into our potential as leaders with intention.   This work isn’t easy but it is warm…and as Lynne reminds us it is the work of our heart and soul.



Retreats provide us a time and space to step away from the daily demands of life.  So why are retreats so important? There are countless reasons to go on a retreat, including being at a turning point in your life, breaking old habits or allowing time for spiritual growth.  In our leadership program we intentionally include a retreat that allows participants to get away for 2 nights to dive deeply within.  The retreat provides time to explore who we are as women leaders, and provides activities that help connect our inner beliefs to our outer actions as leaders.  It is our belief that self-reflection is the key to being a more effective leader who can confidently step into her gifts.

Stepping In
Stepping In