The courage to be vulnerable and the opportunity to be kind

May 10, 2020

You have to read the book from the beginning.

You have to watch the film or the TV programme from the beginning too.

If you do not, it will be a significantly poorer experience. There will be gaps and misunderstandings and too many questions. Why would you? It makes no sense. Things make sense when you start at the beginning.

My life did not start at the beginning. Your life did not start at the beginning either. We were all dropped into the plot lines of other people, their stories, their hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses. Their homes, their families (or not), their towns or cities or villages, their countries. My life is not a film or a book. But the way you see me is as if you joined me on page 179 or scene 23. The way I see you is as if I started watching your story at episode six of series three. It would be a rubbish way to start a book, film or TV series, but it is not a rubbish way to be with you or for you to be with me.

I do not have time to figure out my own story, let alone figure out yours. You cannot make sense of my story and I cannot make sense of yours. But we can choose to be together. We can choose how to be together; and we can choose, when we are together, how to be. Backstories and sequels are for filmmakers, the present is for us.

“Why did you give up being a lawyer?” is a question I am often asked. The proudest day of my professional career, 16 February 1987, was when I qualified. The second proudest day, ten years later, when I became a General Counsel. Then in the year 2000 I ended my career as a lawyer. It had consumed me, terrified me, thrilled me, undermined me and fulfilled me.

Now you know something about me. A glimpse of an earlier plot-line. Would it make our time together any different? No, it would not. If I am kind to you, you will remember my kindness. If I am rude, you will remember my rudeness. If I am dull you will not remember me at all. When I walk into a room, it is not my career that you experience, but how I am with you.

Today the enormity, catastrophe and gravity of our time is impossible to understand. The history of now, only exists in the future. All we can do today is to find the courage to be vulnerable and the opportunity to be kind.

The understandable temptation is to take something that is beyond our understanding and wrap it up in slogans that disguise and deny complexity. The slogans however do not reveal insight, they simply offer a frame for people to argue. A distraction for our ignorance, a denial of our vulnerability, and a missed opportunity to be kind.

As we plan our way out of today and into tomorrow, I hope three thoughts will guide our thinking. If you have any platform at all to lead people and to make decisions on their behalf (whether in government, in business or in communities) may you have the courage to be vulnerable and the opportunity to be kind. For the rest of us, affected by the decisions these people take, then like pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle, may we be proud of the pictures we collectively create. And finally, for all of us to accept that the scriptwriters for this epic production, do not really exist. We are eight billion human plot-lines, where there is no beginning, and there is no end; there is just now and our time together. A time when we cannot know the whole story, but where this matters so much less when we are kind.

Take care x

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