The Role of Choice
By Micah Hobbes- Frazier
“I know change is hard, believe me, I know. I know transformation is incredibly painful and takes time. But what about the person who was harmed? Do we just sit around for the 5, 10, 30 years it takes for someone to change? Isn’t there action that we want to request and demand of people who cause harm in the moment and shortly after to make amends, be accountable, to take some responsibility for collective healing? What good is all of our big, lofty, ambitious language and theory about accountability and conflict and showing-up if we can’t even do it with the people we supposedly love?”Mia Mingus – ‘Nothing left to tell’ posted to The other side of dreamingon January 31st, 2012
What about the person who was harmed? How long do we sit around and wait for accountability and change? Really no one can answer that question but us, the person who was harmed. That is one place where we will have to each choose for ourselves, guided by our own boundaries, and continued assessment. Because the reality is that “our big, lofty, ambitious language and theory about accountability and conflict and showing-up” isn’t really that much good. I mean it’s great in theory, and the reality is that most of the time we can’t actually do it. Not yet. Not even with the people we supposedly and actually do love. Most of the time we just don’t have all of what it takes, all of what we need to hold accountability over time. Not yet. Not for the kind of transformative accountability we are seeking. The kind where real change and transformation happen instead of denial and minimization or punishment and violence.
Leverage: the power to influence a person or situation to achieve a particular outcome.
Force: coercion or compulsion, especially with the use of or threat of violence.
I think a lot about what motivates people to be accountable, and the difference between leverage and force. I believe that leverage is useful for motivating someone to choose to be accountable, however, I don’t believe that you can force someone. For real accountability to happen, they have to consciously chooseto be accountable for the harm that they have done. No one else can make that choice for them, and it is a choice. The choice to turn and face all that you have done, and the impact that it had and continues to have. Or the choice not to. It’s really that simple. Wanting to be accountable is not enough; you actually have to choose to be accountable.And you have to keep choosing it, even when it gets hard.
And it will get hard because being accountable and repairing relationships requires hard work over consistent time. It means doing whatever it takes to stop the harm, and keep it from happening again. It means seeing, acknowledging, and feeling that your actions hurt another person. It means being with the reality of the impact, no matter what your intention. It means being with the full depth of the impact, without getting lost in your own shame and guilt. It means taking a hard look at yourself, and being honest about how it is that you were capable of doing what you did. And it means doing whatever is necessary to make amends, and if possible to repair the relationship. It requires hard work, concrete skills, emotional capacity, ability to take risks, vision, and most of all it requires action. That’s part of the difference between wanting and choosing:
Wanting is passive and change is not possible. Choosing is active and change becomes possible.
As I write this I am grieving letting go of someone who loved me, hurt me, and couldn’t choose accountability even though part of them wanted to. For me it took almost a year before the pain and hurt of the waiting became too much to hold. A year spent hoping, wishing, trying. A year spent making it safe and comfortable for them so that they wouldn’t be afraid or think it was too hard to be accountable. A year spent holding my anger because it scared them, and a year spent maintaining the silence around what happened because me speaking my truth made them feel unsafe. Even though they were the ones that did the harm. A year spent sacrificing my own needs, even in trying to get accountability. And my heart breaking every time it didn’t happen, every time they chose denial, blame, minimization, or whatever else instead.
So in the end I chose to stop waiting for them. I chose to stop “just sitting around”. I chose to focus on my own healing, change, and transformation instead of continuing to put so much energy into someone else’s. To move to a place beyond fear that comes for me when I am able to be with what is, even when I want it to be different. And when I am able to let go, even when I wish I could stay connected. Finding ground and resilience through surrender and trust in spirit and the universe, for magic that is bigger than me. Because really, beyond that, there truly is “nothing left to tell”.
Micah Hobbes Frazier is a Black queer mixed-gendered facilitator, coach, healer, doula, dj, and magic maker; living, loving, laughing, and building community in Oakland, CA. In June 2012 he founded the living room project, an accessible healing justice & community space serving black & brown queer and trans communities. Micah is a talented and experienced somatic coach/bodyworker working primarily with queer and trans people of color (qtpoc) wanting to heal and transform their histories of trauma/violence. He is a commitment to creating spaces where healing and transformation are possible, and to using his magic to help interrupt, heal, and transform the cycles of trauma and violence in our families and communities.