Hurt

I ran on trails this morning for the first time since I fell and broke my wrist a month ago. Since I was already registered for a race happening today, I figured I would give it a try and do my best to be careful. I took off my splint as it’s not very comfortable to wear while running and the metal brackets would also likely injure my arm if I happened to wipe out with them on.

The first 8K loop went OK but I spent most of my time concentrating on the ground, watching for every rock and root along the way. On the second 8K loop I stumbled twice, but managed to stay on my feet without falling both times. However, the two stumbles led to a state of hyper vigilance. By the time I started the third loop, I was exhausted mentally from focusing so much on not falling. My wrist was also starting to ache a bit. At that point, I decided (read: finally accepted) that running this race wasn’t a smart idea at this stage of my recovery so I slowed right down and jogged the rest of the loop, finishing at the halfway mark of the race at 25K.

Going into this trail run, I knew that if I fell and hurt my wrist, I would likely need to have surgery. This was made clear to me two weeks ago at the hospital, which is why I wasn’t even sure last night that I would go to the race. What I didn’t know is how tiring it would be to spend so much time watching for tripping hazards and constantly worrying about falling.

The fact is that my wrist will be fully healed in a matter of weeks. I will need to learn how to feel safe again running on the trails, but there’s no reason I can’t resume trail running again soon.

As I jogged back to the start/finish area, I thought about people who have experienced more significant hurt, such as emotional and physical abuse. These are hurts that don’t heal as readily or easily as a simple broken bone, if at all. It must be incredibly exhausting for people who have been harmed in these ways to be constantly looking around for potential hazards that might lead to further hurt and pain.

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Voting

This evening I took my two boys with me as I went to vote in the Ontario provincial election. As we walked to the polling station, B asked me what an election is about. I told him it’s when we vote for the representatives who will represent us in government and make important decisions on our behalf.

“So you pick the smartest people who will make the best decisions?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. Then, after a second thought, I whispered to myself, “Actually, sometimes we pick the people who we think will make the fewest bad decisions.”

I’d much rather B grow up thinking that he should pick the best candidates whenever he has the privilege of voting.

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Five Minutes Later

As I brought B his bedtime snack, he asked, “Dad, why do you do everything for me? Why don’t you get me to help with things, like making my own breakfast in the morning?”

“OK, I’ll start asking you to do more things,” I affirmed.

** Five Minutes Later **

“B, please put on your pajamas.”

“I need you to help me,” he yawned while playing with LEGO on his bed.

“You just said you want to start doing more things by yourself,” I responded.

“I know, but I still want you to help me put on my pajamas.”

 

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Vulnerability in Leadership

As a leader, I recognize how important it is for me—and those leaders I follow—to discern how we express our leadership in the workplace. Similar to the Compline in the Christian tradition of the canonical hours, we can take time each evening to reflect on our day and review how we spoke and interacted with others. In addition, we can examine our motives to see whether we truly acted for the good of others or instead worked for personal gain or advantage. Then, in a gentle and non-judgmental manner, we can reflect on how to better lead others the following day. While I am not suggesting it is wrong for leaders to receive some benefit or merit, I do think that when we make decisions for personal advantage, we may in fact work against the collective good. I want to be a leader that is self-aware without being self-absorbed.

With this self-awareness comes recognition of our personal strengths and weaknesses. When leaders try to hide their weaknesses or limitations, we present ourselves as a model of perfection. Generally, this is accompanied by extremely high expectations of others in the workplace. While I don’t think leaders should go out of their way to highlight their flaws and imperfections, I appreciate the authenticity of leaders who demonstrate a degree of personal vulnerability. As a leader, I want people to recognize that I am a human being with feelings and challenges and failings who can relate to their own humanness as well.

Another aspect of vulnerability is the willingness to trust others with important tasks and responsibilities. Leaders are often viewed as the problem-solvers, but are generally far removed from both the problems and the knowledge necessary to solve them. Rather than micro-manage people, it is often far more effective for leaders to empower frontline staff to address problems head-on as these staff will recognize issues as they emerge and will know how to respond accordingly. This empowerment can happen when leaders identify the things we value, are most concerned with and want to see more of, which then leads us to build on people’s strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses. In addition, leaders can promote positive growth by demonstrating appreciation and celebrating successes, which helps foster an organizational culture in which people feel pride about their accomplishments and are motivated to seek continuous improvement.

Empowerment does come at a risk, though, as leaders are ultimately accountable for results. However, leaders that utilize a strength-based approach are more likely to create a positive environment that promotes greater work performance and the improved well-being of employees. The benefits far outweigh the risks.

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Identity as a Social Construction

Before becoming a doctor, a person is required to attend medical school to learn how to treat the human body. While learning these skills, the budding doctor will also acquire the cultural competencies that will help shape her identity and provide her with situational power. The same holds true for a lawyer, a police officer, or someone in the corporate world.

Not only is a professional’s social identity defined personally, it is also constructed through social ascription. For example, while a doctor may decide to express herself individually (ie she may prefer to ask for patient input into treatment rather than be directive), patients may have a different expectation based on how the identities of medical professionals are socially constructed. As such, it is useful for all professionals to consider how their identities are shaped both personally and socially as there may be limitations to how much they can personally define themselves. This is important to understand, particularly by those working in professions—such as police services, politics, Faith-based activities—that are viewed negatively by some sectors of society.

When I used to volunteer with children in Toronto’s Regent Park community, I was often surprised by how many of the young people I interacted with viewed police officers in a negative manner. This was in sharp contrast to some other communities in the city in which children would view police as heroes and the good guys. Some children would get excited about hearing a siren, others would want to run and duck.

As we approach the annual Pride Parade in the city, it is also essential to acknowledge how identities are socially constructed, as this will help us understand why it can be difficult for some members of our city, such as those representing Black Lives Matter, to accept the presence of police marching in official uniform. While many of us would view the police services in a positive manner, and also see recent evidence of meaningful support and engagement with groups such as BLM and the LGBTQ community, there is a long history of negative interactions which have legitimately shaped how these groups view the police. It will take time for this to change, as these social constructs are deeply rooted in painful experiences.

It is not easy to redefine how we want people to view us, particularly when there have been incidents of hurt and marginalization. This doesn’t mean that we should stop seeking opportunities for reconciliation, but if we have been the cause of pain or oppression, we need to acknowledge that we do not get to control the process or the timeline for healing.

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The Public Sphere

“A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body.”—Jurgen Habermas

When I first read about Jurgen Habermas’ notion of the public sphere, I thought about social media and how it could offer a place for all people to connect publicly and discuss issues critically. However, I see limited evidence of this happening. While I’m sure at least one critical thought for every 2.5 million ridiculous ones does appear on social media, I wouldn’t consider Facebook or Twitter to be useful tools for challenging the status quo. Given the self-absorbed nature of most social media content, and the fact that social media is a major driver in digital profiling and segmented advertising, I would argue that it’s more subjugating than traditional media.

What’s most disturbing is the growing number of people addicted to social media channels and the devices they use to access them, which means that social media is not only manipulative but something that has become embedded into our culture. Even if we try to use social media tools to engage in civic or political discussion, we are bombarded with advertising and suggested content within the framework of each channel. As well, since these social media channels filter the content we receive (based on various criteria), they are controlling to a significant degree the content we see and don’t see. Individuals, corporations and governments can also pay money to prioritize their content, which pushes other unpaid content down below. This can impact how we view authority and the ways in which we accept or question the world around us.

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