Compassionate Accountability in Diversity

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Learning about compassionate accountability, I came across an article about How to Engage in Conflict Without Casualties.

As someone who has never shied away from conflict, I thought it would be an interesting read. The article begins by saying that Mother Teresa & Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced compassionate conflict–pretty great people to learn from & steal tips and tricks to add to my own repertoire.

Because your girl can be like a dog with a bone when it comes to dealing with issues. I’m more uncomfortable when things AREN’T out in the open.

And It’s been a blessing & a curse. It’s why I was the only 2L amongst the third-years on my law school’s nationally-ranked mock trial team. It’s why I went to law school in the first place–I’m down to speak up for the little guy or the meek. And I love the truth.

Sure, I’ve damaged plllllennnty
of relationships by being up-front & unabashed & pushing to get the truth out in the open. But I can sleep soundly at night, unburdened with the unsaid or untruth. It can be a bit much, I know. But, I just…it’s so freeing. The truth, after all, shall set you free

I’m fully aware that there are people out there who don’t deal in conflict or confrontation & if I’m going to be in a field where I talk about multiplicity and reconciling differences, I feel compelled to understand that approach & develop that part of myself. After all, some of the greatest change agents engaged in conflict without causing havoc–that’s some Obi Wan action right there. Plus, as Michael Meade said: “The purpose of conflict is to create.”


There’s a 3-player model of conflict (or drama, what happens when people misuse the energy of conflict, with or without awareness, to feel justified about their negative behavior). The roles in this Drama Triangle (created by the same guy who identified the Trangle Offense in basketball!) are: Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer.

  • Persecutor adopts the attitude that, “I’m OK, you are not OK, therefore it’s OK to attack, blame, or intimidate to get what I want.”
  • Victim adopts the attitude, “I’m not OK, you are OK, so it’s OK for others to mistreat me.” They often become passive to avoid conflict.
  • Rescuers adopt the attitude, “I’m OK, you would be OK if you accepted and appreciated my help.”

According to the research, many people do not realize the role(s) they play in these instances. They play their roles habitually, based on ingrained beliefs about themselves or how things should be.

Personality, culture, tradition, responses to life events… we all become conditioned to behave certain ways, including when conflict arises.

This is something I used to begin semesters discussing–in order to encourage my college students to talk openly, understand others better, etc., I’d start every government course with the chapter on socialization. I would tell them my story, do exercises to help them develop their understandings about how we all form political stances. And I asked them to always be aware of, and willing to share, what about their experiences made them think the way they did about issues.

One summer class REALLY latched onto the program, & we all had fantastic discussions that semester. Sentences that started with, “I was brought up with XYZ…” or “I believe _____, which makes me see this issue…” allowed them to speak their truths, provide others with context AND a way to respectfully discuss their differences. I watched kids leave class engaged. Rather than enraged. I saw former strangers eating lunch in the quad.

Laying that little bit of groundwork & being willing to lead from the jump set everything down a better path.

We’re all a little blind to our own innerworkings. Taking a step back, rising above the fray to objectively view certain situations, can do a world of good–it worked in GOVERNMENT classes, it works in conflict, it can work between people when diversity issues arise…

A healthy dose of self-awareness, combined with willingness to entertain how others arrive at their conclusions, does a whole lot to make peaceful coexistence much more attainable.

The three roles–Persecutor, Victlm, Rescuer–are painted rather negatively in the Triangle. They are, after all, participants in drama. But, they have attributes that, when spun productively, make them useful to conflict.

Victims can point out major problems. NFL players who took a knee after a rash of police violence-related deaths occurred, most of which involved black Americans. It was a real issue that deserved serious attention and solutions that would/could affect ALL Americans, but it resulted in a media-convoluted sh*tstorm that has done nothing more than to confuse and separate people in unrelated and illogical ways.

Persecutors could point out people who are truly not OK, like, pedophiles and sociopaths. Unfortunately, as history has shown us, they can often be a prejudiced bunch empowered by strength in numbers or historical positions of power.

That’s where so many conflicts lie: the separation of what was & what is, and the human lag that sometimes occurs in the present-between.

The Rescuer’s productive role can, actually, help to resolve these conflicts (and this is where I so-diligently have tried to be) by taking on the role of Resourceful. Or, as I like to call it: Resource. As the article says, “While Rescuing gives people fish, Resourcefulness teaches people how to fish.”

This is also where I see the place for compassion to slide in. I, as a resource for diversity, using the unique blend of racial, religious, personality, cultural, even gender perspectives that come with being Me, have the chance to relate & empathize & show how others can do the same.

That’s the core of compassion. It’s more than most people think. It’s more than just empathy, caring, and concern for another person. Compassion originates from the Latin root meaning “to struggle with.”

Applied to harmonizing multiplicity, I see it as showing the way, getting into the picture with, everyone. Because we’re all part of the picture.


Growing up the way I did, I saw everyone as potentially “my people.” We always had non-blood-relations at family functions, and I always considered them part of the crowd. Strangers were always friends I just hadn’t made yet. My life could always make room for one more person. I never looked exactly like my family, so I never considered the outside as a barrier to entry. [Imagine how crushing it was to learn how many dang people, based on all kinds of demographics, DON’T think, feel, or operate the same.]

I’m so glad to have learned about this Resource role, especially in the context of problem-solving. It’s a nice, focused way to regard going in with the intent to “struggle” or work WITH everyone, rather than lecture at them, in pursuit of mutually-beneficial conclusions.

Re-framing conversations to make them easier, introducing issues that make people feel understood & more able to understand, making it OK to have open & sincere conversations… there are so many dynamic & creative solutions.

I’m not afraid of facing the tough issues. My heart got a compassion gut check–read: How Much Of Yourself Can You Recognize In Others?–which has taken my approach & desire to create harmony to higher levels than ever before.


Even being clinical & methodological about D&I doesn’t keep me from having some pretty groovy realizations about it