As someone who has often found myself navigating the space in-between, internalizing the lesson of “multiple truths” has become an anchor point for my growth in leadership and personal development.
Leaning into the uncomfortable, difficult conversations, and making a shift toward equity requires the ability to understand that multiple truths are possible simultaneously. Not “either / or,” and not “no, but.” Embracing multiple truths is to internalize the knowing of “yes, and.” This is a valuable tool in moving us away from our defense mechanisms and into being present in fostering productive dialogue.
Before beginning our Community of Practice work, we always start with Community Agreements. These are agreements that are ever changing and co-created to meet the needs of the group. This allows us to work together with shared understanding. Some of our community agreements will center around active listening, compassionate understanding, and to trust the process.
These Community Agreements include the statement “Strive to hold multiple truths” allowing us “to move beyond ‘wrong or right’ into a space of ethical questioning that is always already conflicting, while shifting, can also be strong ground on which to build” (from the book Joyful Militancy).
In a time where everyone has a hot take and tensions are high, we want to be cautious to not be constantly blowing up spaces beyond repair, but to fundamentally shift the way we engage with each other. We have all been asked to perform in extractive environments, where questioning is met with frustration as it limits productivity. As we know, productivity and urgency is just another tenant of white supremacy culture. If we’re barreling ahead with our unchecked preconceived notions we are not taking our responsibility as future ancestors seriously.
There was a time where I also found myself stuck in frustration; there is not enough happening, why can’t they see what they’re doing? I spent so much of my life being “against.” I was a progressive Jew in a conservative Christian suburb. I was radicalized at a young age by exposure to a variety of communities outside of school and the deep critical thinking encouraged by my father. I was furious. I was such an angry teen. Snapping back at anyone who had something ignorant to say, I couldn’t believe they didn’t care. But, if I’m being honest, living like that, with that chip on my shoulder, that anger, was doing everything to bring me down.
It’s been a long time since I was that little girl. I’m unlearning my anger knowing healthy frustration is normal, to be expected in our current conditions, AND I have to hold that against the value of my own vitality, and the need to cultivate something else. Multiple truths allows me to step back to see that I am not responsible for the unlearning of those around me. It is more valuable to speak my truths, to build on what’s possible, and not get consumed by the energy it takes to be constantly fighting.
Check back for Part 2 of this blog where Rae explores how the idea of multiple truths is used in Prospera Partner’s systems change and transformational leadership work.