By: Chidi Okpala
“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others, without devaluing our own….He who will hold another down in the mud, must stay in the mud to keep him down” – Chinua Achebe
This great Nigerian Novelist put out this statement many years ago but long after he has been gone, we seem to still haven’t learnt that we will never become more in anyway we look at it if we keep looking for ways to use our tribe, colour, authority or status to bring our fellow human beings down. I sometimes wonder the sort of satisfaction it brings to those who perpetrate these acts.
They say the heart of a man is full of evil; but I also know in the heart, there is also a lot of goodness in it; it just depends on which part we choose to feed. When we choose evil; that’s what grows and it affects our society and indeed the world in very painful ways. When we choose good, we build a much more compassionate, generous and peaceful world for our communities, organisations, our families and for you and I. Why is this so difficult to understand? Why have we reduced our humanity to where it seems as though our lives no longer matter to one another?
In the last few months, the corona virus pandemic has stunted our lives. Guess what? No race, tribe or status personality has been spared. So some of us positive thinkers, full of hope, decide to believe that this must be teaching us something. It ought to teach us something about the common humanity we all share and how really fragile our lives are. A lot of Professionals and Leaders alike continue to say ‘our lives will never be the same again’. But what does this really mean? Will it become better in the sense that we will rediscover who we truly are as global citizens and strive to create more fair opportunities for one another and will we be kinder to each other? I truly hope this is what this all means.
But then still in the midst of this, we hear of the unfairness & injustice going on in the distribution of palliatives to the most vulnerable of us, then recent killings going on in the Northern part of Nigeria and other parts of the country and then the current climax; the Minneapolis incident just a few days ago. A video so painful and gruesome to watch. A grown man is pinned to the ground and his fellow man places his knee on his neck tightly for reasons we still do not know.
He pleads for his life..’I can’t breathe’. But those who raised their right hand and swore ‘to protect and preserve the lives of everyone’, not some people; still choose to end his life. This happened in the United States today, but truly, this level of injustice sadly, is a common incident in many parts of our world.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said; “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. So, we will be doing ourselves a big disservice if we choose to look the other way and not empathize ourselves in this situation because it could happen to me or you reading this. If there is something the global world we live in today teaches us is how we are all connected in one way or the other in the good, the bad and the ugly experiences of our lives. So what should we do? Three thoughts immediately come to mind:
Raise Our Level Of Self Awareness
According to Steven Covey, ‘Self Awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions and our habits and tendencies’. You know, in helping Professionals build their brands, the self-discovery path of the Personal Brand development journey is the most important part of that journey. Once we are able to do these and encourage one another to do this, we will raise our level of understanding for one another and begin to look for new and positive ways in which we can work, respect each other and live together. A lot of us still do not know or even understand who we are and the potentials that lie within us as individuals and the possibilities that lie ahead of us when we choose to come together as HUMAN BEINGS and nothing more.
Show Selfless Leadership
How we present ourselves and treat one another or those placed in our care, greatly shows the type of leader we are. Leadership is never about authority or force. True leadership is selfless and consistently seeks to serve and not be served. The world is in great need of inspiring and selfless leaders in our organisations and our communities. True leaders who are not committed to themselves but committed to their people and those placed in their care. We all have the capacity and capability within us to show and live selfless lives. That’s how we grow; that’s how we create sincere joy and happiness in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Never Ever Play The Victim
“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?..Your playing small does not serve the world”. I ask who are you not to be? Marrianne Williamson reminds us that ALL OF US and not some of us, are born with a brightness that should be felt with courage in the world. A lot of us from this part of the world should strive to encourage one another to understand the potentials that lie within them so that they can lift themselves off the mediocre lives they keep accepting to live every single day. The worst sort of imprisonment is not within the walls of a maximum-security prison but right in our minds when all we see and probably chose to see is ourselves as victims; incapacitated to think, see and live our fullest potential. We have for far too long done ourselves a lot more harm intellectually, emotionally and physically than the people we think are actually hurting us.
You know the biggest challenge isn’t how we look, where we come from or even the work we do; it’s the mentality we bring to who we think we are that is limiting our growth and development as a people. I remember during my post graduate studies in the UK and I had to work as a Waiter in a restaurant. So, I went to take the order from a group of British women seated at a table. In my interaction with them, one of them didn’t know when she sarcastically said ‘and you even speak very well’. I smiled and said politely; ‘off course I speak very well’. After that day, I didn’t just win a customer, but I won a friend for two major reasons; One, I consistently saw myself not as a waiter but as one who through the work I did at the time, no matter what anyone thought, contributed to the growth of the organisation and secondly I was emphatic and calm about that incident.
We all share a common humanity. Desmond Tutu once said; ‘If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously as members of one family; the human family’.
We gain a lot when we help one another see the light in each of us. We thrive together when we collectively stand for something that unites us and gives our children hope for a better future. We rise when we lift up Human justice and empathy for everyone above personal sentiments or short lived gains.
Let’s Work together!
Chidi Okpala is a leading Personal Brand Strategist passionate and committed to helping Professionals and growing leaders rediscover and see the possibilities in their potentials while helping them, their organisations and communities focus on one great thing that will make a difference in people’s lives and thereby lead a truly successful and fulfilling life.