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Passionate and Compassionate…How do We do It?

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

You don't understand!

You don't understand!

“I know where you are coming from, but you do not understand where I am coming from.”

This was directed at me once from a woman I had not seen or really talked to beyond the occasional Facebook greeting for about 12 years or so.

She had posted one of those slightly inflammatory, tongue in cheek type statuses (that actually was disparaging to quite a large group of people) and unintentionally sparked a debate.

You know the type…there were people cheering her on, people totally dissing her, and a few lone voices trying to respectfully disagree through rational debate.

I thought I was one of that last group. This was a woman I sincerely liked and respected; I honestly didn’t think she understood the total impact of what she had written. I was trying to respectfully point out to her how she was coming across, while she was getting more and more angry.

Her final retort was the quote written above; not long after writing it she simply deleted the entire thread.

This situation itself was a bit of an aberration…I honestly don’t think this woman was trying to stir the pot; she just thought she was posting something that everyone she knew would be happy to agree with. But I couldn’t get over thinking about that statement.

I thought, “How could she know ‘where I am coming from’? She doesn’t really know me. She doesn’t know much at all about what I’ve experienced or gone through during the last 12 years.

At the time, I was also thinking, “That is absolutely the worst argument you could ever use…it’s so easily disproved!”

But as I’ve been thinking about the meaning of compassionate advocacy (the topic of this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting), this whole conversation came back to me, and I’ve realized how much I actually do use that very argument in my own head when I disagree with someone or when I want to convince someone of something.

I know where you are coming from, but you do not know where I am coming from.

In my more rational moments, it’s a statement I actually find laughable. How incredibly arrogant it would be to go around feeling that way!

But I do feel that way…a lot of the time.

Fortunately, I’ve recognized it – not just from the situation with the woman above, but built up from all of my experiences, which include a past of being very judgmental, and a present of still fighting the tendency a lot of the time.

Because of this, I’ve built up some tactics over the years to help me to become more compassionate. After all, I am a passionate person; I have strong beliefs…I get excited and want to share things…I don’t like the idea of just sitting back and saying nothing.

So if I feel the need to advocate either for or against something, I have to bring several determining factors into play. I ask myself:

  1. Is it my role to tell this person that they are wrong?
  2. What is my motivation in getting this person to see the error of their ways? Do I genuinely want to help this person to a better way without any other strings attached?
  3. Am I open to the idea that I could be wrong?
  4. Am I trying to truly understand where this person is coming from?
  5. Am I willing to continue to accept and love this person even if they don’t go along with what I am telling them?

Another thing I find helpful is looking back on experiences where I have been humbled…becoming a parent, anyone?

Here are a few things I knew with absolute certainty, without a shadow of a doubt, the day before my daughter was born:

  • I would have a totally natural birth.
  • I would breastfeed with little to no problems at all.
  • My daughter would sleep in her own room from day 1.
  • I would use spanking as an acceptable means of discipline.
  • I would not ‘spoil’ my daughter by ‘giving in’ to her all the time.

Every single one of those things I knew – knew without question – were completely altered within hours, days, or months of giving birth to her. And I find I am constantly updating and changing how I think about and apply my parenting and interaction with my daughter.

And that is another place where compassionate advocacy comes in!

I get truly excited when I learn something new – something that totally resonates – something that I feel passionate enough about that I wish everyone could know and act on it.

So what do I do?

I talk about it. A lot. I view myself and try to present myself as a continual learner – not someone who knows it all and doesn’t believe anyone else has something to contribute. Not someone who has decided to do it a certain way from this day forth and will never change.

I live it, and I celebrate it – and I don’t expect or try to force anyone in particular to change their minds.

To some, that might sound weak…but I have found again and again that it truly works. Only in the past few months, I’ve had a friend tell me she was switching to cloth diapers (who had no intentions of doing so before); my mom told me she is considering going No Poo (something I never expected!) and my Grandma is going paper towel free and planning to hang her clothes out to dry this summer as much as possible instead of using the dryer.

I have talked about my passion regarding these things with these people on multiple occasions, but I have never actively tried to tell them that they should follow along with me in doing them (or that what they were doing was wrong – who am I to say that?).

I certainly don’t claim all the credit for these changes, but I know I contributed.

But what about when you see something and you KNOW that it is wrong? Is it your place to step in?

One of the best answers I’ve seen to that question is one I’ve mentioned before, from Alicia over at McCrenshaw. This is such a beautiful story. How many of us would have simply shaken our heads or given a dirty look and walked away from that situation? Or even told the mother that she was a bad person, or that she was hurting her child?

The actions that WERE taken were truly loving support at its best – the kind of support that brings real, lasting change.

That’s another thing about being compassionate – when we do try to motivate people to change through fear  and judgment (if you don’t breastfeed your baby will be fat and stupid!) or insult (are you crazy? How could you possibly still believe that circumcision is OK?!?), we may get a few people on board, but even those who aren’t totally alienated often won’t be candidates for true change, because fear and guilt are terrible motivators.

In my own self-reflection, I’ve often asked the question…why do I feel such a great need to bring judgment into my advocacy (or into my interactions in general?)

A big one I’ve found is simple immaturity. Remember when you were a teenager and you knew everything? I feel that harsh, regular judgi-ness is a sign that I haven’t progressed to where I need to be; basically, I’ve fallen back into childishness. A childish or teenage mentality might find great difficulty in considering another person’s perspective – it is that ‘I know but you don’t’ state of mind.

Another is insecurity. If I don’t feel totally confident in all my decisions, it can be a strong comfort to at least feel superior to someone else in some area. I used to be very insecure in many ways, so feeling superior was like a drug…it’s so potent that I still continue to fight against it.

If you find yourself slipping into the type of immaturity or insecurity that causes lashing out – the opposite of compassionate advocacy, there are a few more remedies that can turn it around:

Education. Be a constant learner yourself, and provide quality information or resources for others to learn – without placing expectations on the outcome. Trust that people can decide for themselves when they are presented with the evidence, and if they chose to remain in ignorance, you may not be the one who changes their mind (though never discount the fact that you have planted a seed along the way).

It’s kind of like continually offering a toddler healthy meal choices…you present it to them, but you can’t force them to eat. You’ve done the best you could do for that stubborn little monkey, and you’ve gotta continue loving them even when they turn up their nose at the goodness you’ve put before them.

And that leads into the other remedy – Total Loving Support. This is the absolute necessity – what the action of advocacy is missing so much of the time. Can you love someone, even if you fundamentally disagree with them? Can you support them, even if you feel their choices are wrong? Do you have any idea how much impact this might have?

Consider in this the tenets of conscious, compassionate parenting: Respect. Authenticity. Trying to see the situation from the child’s point of view – empathy. Being mindful of the age of the child (or the point of maturity?). Not lashing out in anger or violence.

Does this all end when we become adults?

Can we teach compassion to our children if we are not modeling it to everyone? Even the ones we strongly disagree with? Even the ones we feel are causing harm?

Are any of us perfect, that we can cast that first stone?

In the end, I must advocate compassionately because I cannot know with full certainty where another person is coming from. I must advocate compassionately because I will never be perfect, and it is not right of me to look down on others from any kind of height.

We are all in this crazy, loving, hurting world together. We are all making mistakes, and will continue to do so. We are all making great strides forward, and will continue to do so. We all have a story that is not totally revealed – a reason behind the decisions we are making (and it’s probably not what you think it is!).

We all need compassion to go hand in hand with passion.

It’s one of those things that is a constant, constant learning process. And I am thankful that we do have so much to learn from one another. I’m so looking forward to reading what others will be saying on this particular Carnival of Natural Parenting topic…I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot!

And I’m so thankful for those of you who are already compassionate advocates – you have inspired more than you probably realize. I hope I can truly count myself among you someday. :)

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don’t share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don’t parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That’s The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she’s learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the “good news” of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people’s children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter’s senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the “great divide” through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R’s of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how “The Three R’s” can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she’s been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she’s doing — and it’s a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on “holistic” — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We’re great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by “just doing her thing,” she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don’t tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.



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46 Responses to “Passionate and Compassionate…How do We do It?”

  • What a beautiful post! I really love how you turned the situation you had before into a lesson for yourself on treating others with compassion. I really like the phrase you used: "We all need compassion to go hand in hand with passion." It's so apt.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..April Carnival of Natural Parenting- Compelling without repelling

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks so much Lauren! I loved your post as well – isn't it great to see how much can be redeemed from the past?

  • Suzi says:

    Great post! It goes really well with mine actually, haha. I think online debates are a really sore subject for a lot of people because they do get really heated and people do end up thinking that they're right. You wrote really honestly and openly about where that comes from and I really like how you related it to becoming a parent and thinking you've got it all figured out, when come on! None of us do!! I loved that because that was me as well. Totally thought I knew exactly what I was going to do when my son was born and then he completely turned my world upside down. And so in the same way we didn't have perspective before we had our kids, why do we think we have perspective on other people's situations? Really great stuff!!

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you Suzi! It definitely does. :) That perspective is something so important that is so hard to remember on a regular basis!

      But I totally had being a parent all figured out! (only, before I was one, of course ;) )

  • This is phenomenal. I love how you are willing to learn and to change your choices, that shows SO much maturity and I deeply respect and admire that in people. I love how you are constantly questioning and I sense a real humbleness in your approach to life. You rock and I've taken a lot from this post; thanks for sharing your gift.
    Mrs Green @ littlegr recently posted..Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting

  • What an eye-opening post! I love some of your questions, particularly "am I open to the idea I could be wrong" and "am I trying to truly understand where the person is coming from." Such good questions to reflect on whenever we are engaging in a conversation about anything even remotely controversial. Great post Kelly!
    Dionna @ Code Name: recently posted..Ten Reasons I Choose to Nurse My Toddler

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you so much Dionna! That open to being wrong one can be a hard one to swallow – not one I am best at – but it really needs to be in there (and it's certainly happened, and probably will again!). Understanding where the other person is coming from…that's what it's all about! So often it is so easy to make the judgment call without any understanding…I think we all (myself included) often need to step back and give another mom the benefit of the doubt, rather than assuming the worst. We all just want the best for our kids one way or another, right?

  • I like your ending about "total loving support" how can you go wrong with that! Support does not mean you have to agree it just means that you accept and honor…

    and like Dionna, I also really like how you allowed yourself to question yourself before engaging in active advocacy or opposition.

    In the end it all comes down to TRUST…whether its in ourselves or our children…we rely on it!

    great work as usual, kelly!!
    Jessica | Cloth Diap recently posted..Natural love creates natural happiness

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you Jessica! I so appreciate your encouragement. :D And you're right…it's just not something you can go wrong with giving (though it can sometimes be the hardest thing to give…)

  • April says:

    Great post! I am often amazed by the things taht people post on their facebook wall – I like to think that people wouldn't act this way face-to-face, one of the huge downsides of social media.

    I always try to remember that Jesus accepted everyone, including me and remember that I have plenty of faults as well.
    April recently posted..Five Question Friday!

  • I read this post in the middle of the night but couldn't comment for some reason.

    I love how you took a lesson from everything yourself. So many times people sit on their high horse and look down their noses at those who don't parent the same way we do. How can we expect people to listen to us if we aren't modeling compassion ourselves.

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you Darcel! Sorry for troubles with the comment form…not sure what that was all about! Your point is so true – and it can be so hard sometimes! I won't deny that I still deal with feelings of superiority at times (ooh…look at my lovely, environment-saving cloth diaper next to all those disposables in the change room!), but I can generally recognize what I'm doing and check it…advocating because you think you're better (rather than hoping for genuine, helping change) is really not cool…

  • Great CarNatPar post! I resonate with everything in your post (with one exception, but we'll talk about that later, I'm sure ;)

    I love this: "I must advocate compassionately because I cannot know with full certainty where another person is coming from. I must advocate compassionately because I will never be perfect, and it is not right of me to look down on others from any kind of height." That is so true! Extending this hand without it being tied to any response from the other person is true compassion. And your point about the no-it-all teen? I think that's the way a lot of people respond to things when confronted online (well, anywhere really) So, it's the compassion that is needed to advocate for anything, especially something we're passionate about
    Zoie @ TouchstoneZ recently posted..A Letter to Those Parents

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks for your feedback Zoie! I realized over at your blog that you thought I was advocating spanking – I just want to make it TOTALLY clear that I do not advocate spanking – it is something I would never use as a discipline tool and am very much against it. :) The list in the blog had to do more with things I THOUGHT I would do or experience before I actually become a parent….then had that awakening of things being pretty much totally flipped around and realizing a lot of what I 'knew' was wrong.

      And thank you for your comment – sincerely appreciate your kind words. :)

  • I love your list of questions to ask yourself. Great little checklist. I, too, try to remember that I can only provide information and it's up to the receiver to decide what to do with it. We have to realize it's not our choice to make, just as no one is free to make our parenting choices for us.

    Thanks for sharing a great post.
    Kristen @ Adventures recently posted..The Importance of Advocating Compassionately

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you Kristen! It is important to let go of that attachment (as hard as that can be when you feel someone is hurting or being hurt) but in the long run it often works out even better that way (particularly as humans – me in particular! are contrary, and often just feel like doing exactly the opposite of what they're 'told' to do…)

  • jessica says:

    I'm another fan of the self-check-in. I'll also a third to your list of immaturity and insecurity – I also struggle with internal conflict. Not the kind where I think that what I'm doing is "wrong", but that I want to have the opportunity to live two or three separate lives because I want to HAVE IT ALL.

    For example… I'm am happy to have chosen a non-career, often SAHM vocation for my early adult life. I think that it does offer things to myself and my family that I would miss without having chosen this path. However, I also feel that I could be quite happy as an ambitious career woman and sometimes I feel pangs of sadness that I am not doing that. So when I see someone who has chosen that other path with no apparent internal conflict about that choice, I have to really dialog with myself in order to not to pick the other person apart in an effort to sooth my own desires to be doing that too.

    Not sure if it makes sense. But it's at the heart of many of my personal struggles to not be defensive.

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Jessica – that totally makes sense. :) I know I can get way overly analytical at times and start defending my choices before they were actually even challenged – certainly not a good way to be! But recognizing it is half the battle for sure. :)

  • Julie Hunt says:

    Great post, Kel! You're so great at articulating things. I loved reading this and will keep it in my inbox to reread. So applicable to many, many areas in life and community. Great things to be considering.

  • Fantastic post. Definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and a good starting point to critique myself. Thanks!
    CatholicMommy recently posted..Introverted Advocacy

  • April says:

    Absolutely! Thank you!

    It's *so* important to consider the times we've fallen on our own faces before we can truly stand up and say we're the judge in the matter. . .

    But also important that we speak up, or things will never change.

    Great post!
    April recently posted..BF 101- Working Mama

  • Rachael says:

    Your questions are so helpful. Thank you for sharing this thorough self-investigation with us — your openness is inspiring.
    Rachael recently posted..Coming Out of Survival Mode

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