My heart sank, as I am sure yours did, as more details came forward regarding the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols. As a mother of twin boys, the thought of one of them calling out for me when experiencing unthinkable violence against them continues to bring me to tears. As a human, seeing another human treated so inhumanely continues to break my heart.
Hurt people hurt people.
In some form or another, we are all hurting. In fact, we’ve been struggling for some time. Long before the pandemic opened our eyes to our pain. We continue to witness what happens in our world when we, as individuals, do not take responsibility for our pain. For generations, we’ve bought into the belief that we can stuff away our traumas, emotions, and triggers. That is, until it is too late, and we do something that goes against our consciousness.
As the mother of the aforementioned twin boys, I’ve had moments when I took out my emotional triggers on them. When they were young, I know there were moments when my anger and frustration led me to yank their arm a bit too hard as I tried to regain a sense of control. My reaction was about looking for a shortcut to reclaim power rather than take responsibility for how I felt; powerless to get them to stop misbehaving. As I said, hurt people hurt people. I’m not above that. I just had to choose to either rationalize my behavior or address the emotions and triggers I was experiencing.
We are good at rationalizing things. Society at large hasn’t believed police need training on their emotions and traumas, despite the horrific events they witness, experienced, or partaken in on the job or personally. We tell ourselves that their job has nothing to do with their feelings, as they only need to focus on getting the “bad guys.” There’s “good,” the one with the badge, and there’s the “bad,”not the one with the badge. Therefore, as a police officer you can deceive yourself to believe, you can do no wrong. It’s the ultimate form of power. We also do this in companies, where the higher the position/power you have, the less at fault you are. It’s other employees who are in the wrong, not you. Or as parents, when we blame our feelings on our kids’ behavior. Or when we have the power of anonymity and use it to unleash cruelty on a driver we feel did something wrong or a person on social media because they posted something we don’t like. Wherever we have the upper hand, our egos rationalize that it’s okay to unleash our unprocessed feelings onto another because something outside of ourselves triggered something within ourselves we don’t like.
Emotional Empowerment 101 teaches if the emotion is within you, it is yours to address. Of course, what you experience amplifies your emotional experiences. However, rather than blame, which takes your power and personal responsibility away from you, recognize that this feeling is providing you an opportunity to continue reacting in a disempowered manner or grow to be the person you want to be.
The larger emotional plea from the horrific events Tyre Nichols experienced is that we need to take responsibility for our emotions. What is clear is if we don’t learn the importance of addressing and processing our traumas, emotional triggers, and negative feelings, they will continue to come out toward others in tragic and unhealthy ways.
The key to doing so is to have compassion. Compassion begins with listening to what you are feeling. Not only is this crucial for your well-being but by gaining self-compassion you will become better at recognizing what others may be feeling. As you learn to navigate your life with less judgment and greater empathy, you can support others to do the same.
Some see compassion as synonymous with being a doormat. That’s an inaccurate understanding. Compassion allows us to be with our shortcomings from a place of love. Real love demands more of us than continuing to be less than our Truth. Therefore compassion sheds insight into the human aspects that make us react. Then it guides us to recognize where we need to course correct and show up differently as a greater expression of the love and humanity we genuinely are. Doing so requires the courage to see the fears that have been controlling us and instead choose the more challenging path of our Truth.
I share this to see what we have control over changing. It isn’t just these officers or police in general. It’s you. It’s me. Each of us can move the needle by taking greater personal responsibility for how we feel and living with greater compassion for ourselves and others. In doing so, we move from tolerating unhealthy behaviors to healthier, more compassionate responses. Through our collective efforts, we have an opportunity for our homes, workplaces, and society to operate with greater consciousness and compassion.
While there is much that must be done to put an end to violent acts, this is one aspect that we can immediately address. We can recognize our hurt, take responsibility for it, learn to process it, and respond with a greater love for ourselves and others.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge the compassion of Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, who asked not to recognize his life with more violence. Instead, she guided others to peacefully address the wrongs that Tyre faced while standing firm to create change. Her example is a model of compassionate change that we can apply to ourselves, one another, and our society. May all the ways our hearts ache lead us to beneficial changes for the greater good of all.