My super smart reverend said something that really stuck with me today. He was talking about the difference between calling people out and calling people in. He discussed this in reference to supporting minority groups and working against oppression. When we see something happening that contributes to oppression or systemic injustice, we may feel tempted to call that person out. We may feel tempted to use all of our righteous indignation to label their behavior as racist, sexist, classist or whatever else it might be. In fighting against these cultural problems, we may feel tempted to whip out our high intensity label maker and sort everyone according to their misdeeds. There’s something really satisfying in identifying the wrong in others; there’s also something divisive, hurtful, and counterproductive in shaming someone this way.
My ministerial pal encouraged us, rather than calling people out, to call people in. There is more than one way to skin a cat (why do we say this, it really is gross), and shaming someone is not the only way to address something they have said or done that is hurtful or unjust. Calling someone in rather than out means having an actual conversation about what has happened, telling them why it hurt or upset you, maintaining an open channel for dialogue and attempting to maintain the relationship. When we call someone in, we are calling not only for justice, but for healing, for relationship, for love, and for the most inclusive society we could possibly have. I will not reject you EVEN when I talk to you about your rejection of people I love or principles I hold dear. I will not reject you by presuming I understand why you behave as you do . I will not reject you by telling you, in so many words, that I understand your experience better than you do.
When I call someone in, I tell them how I feel both about them as an individual with individual worth and dignity and how I feel about whatever they said or did. I tell that person why saying something matters to me. I approach that person with love and curiosity rather than my own prepackaged notion of their motives. When I call someone in, I practice compassion in a way that has real consequences, that opens real doors, that opens wounded hearts and opens minds that are far too certain. When I call someone in, I show what I know about being the one on the outside, being the one who has misbehaved, being the one whose beliefs have not kept time. When I call someone in, I leave room for hope, for growth, and for humanity.
The most interesting thing about this question of calling out or in is that it applies just as easily to our internal relationship as to those external ones. As you travel through your days and weeks, are you calling yourself out when you “misbehave”? If you are unhappy with something you’ve done, or are continuing to do, do you simply label and shame yourself in an attempt to squash that behavior? Do you judge yourself with all of your most loaded words from childhood in an attempt to force yourself to do better? Would you rather call yourself out or call yourself in?
What would it look like to call yourself in? I think it would look an awful lot like noticing. I notice when I say or do something that doesn’t align with my core beliefs. I notice when I sabotage myself. I notice when I continue to indulge in a bad habit that I know is really just a bad habit. I notice. And after I notice, I get curious. I wonder why I’m doing that, saying that, thinking that. I wonder with compassion why I continue to repeat behaviors that I know aren’t good for me. I stop assuming I know why I do that. I reject the old reasons based on my sloppy and unkind judgments of myself. I listen to myself with an open heart. I call myself in, inward to my heart, inward to the wounds, inward to the source rather than calling myself out, being at war with my own most wounded self. I call myself into self-care and compassion. I call myself in to the wisdom of watching, noticing, and loving myself into my best self. How are you calling to yourself? Are you calling yourself out or calling yourself in?
As I move into this holiday season, I hope to learn to call in rather than call out. I hope to maintain my relationships and potentially make them stronger by subjecting them to the honestly of how I feel. I hope to call myself into a space of self-compassion and self care. I hope to leave the calling out behind as a tool that no longer serves me, my loved ones, or my heart. If you’d like to explore some new ways of calling to yourself and others, I can help with that.