2.4 - Developing our Emotional Capacity - Resilience against Shame

2.4 – Developing our Emotional Capacity – Resilience against Shame (60 minutes)


Materials needed: Our Essential Values handout, butcher paper (5 sheets), markers, post-it notes, pens, writing paper

Purpose of piece: Explore our values, how those values are connected to both racial equity and our personal growth, and how we feel challenged by critique. To develop language that can help us avoid going into shame, and instead, develop empathy for ourselves.

Say to group: We are going to start by taking a look at this sheet that lists different values that might be important to us. Our first task is to underline up to 10 of them that we feel are essential to our individual sense of self. Although you may believe more are essential, please try to narrow it down to the top 10 that seem most important to your sense of self. (5 minutes)

Say to group: Now look at the top 10 you underlined, which ones feel under threat when you engage in racial dialogues, racial justice actions, or consider your racial identity? The threat could come from your own inner voice, how you interpret statements by others, or via direct critique. Circle them. So, to repeat, you’re looking at the 10 you already have underlined, and now you’re going to circle the ones that feel threatened when racial issues are at the foreground. (5 minutes)

Say to group: We’re now going collapse all of our information together in order generate a list of all the values that we’ve collectively circled.  Would someone be brave enough to come up and highlight the values they both underlined and circled?

Use a fresh handout for the first participant to use.

Now, each person will take a turn with the list. If the values you highlighted and circled aren’t yet highlighted, go ahead and highlight them. If they are highlighted already, put a tally mark next to them.

Facilitator’s Note: Continue until you have all the values that were both underlined and circled by participants and write them up on a sheet of the butcher paper, including the tally marks so that you can see which values were selected most. (10 minutes)

Facilitator’s Note: Determine the 5 values most frequently chosen by the group. If the group primarily selected different values, give the group a few minutes to select more values and continue with the process until you can determine 5 that reflect values shared by multiple people in the group. Have 5 blank butcher paper posters hanging around the room in advance. Once you know the 5 values selected, walk around the room and write the value at the top of each poster. Draw a line down the middle of each poster. On the left side, write a subtitle “racial justice.” One the right side, write a subtitle “personal growth.”

Say to group: I’m now going to hand out a bunch of post it notes to each person. Use them to write messages that uplift how the value is essential to racial justice efforts. Place these notes on the left side of the poster. For example,

  • If we had the value “honest” on one of the posters, I might write that “it takes honesty to confront race, and it takes honesty to self-reflect enough to admit when I’ve been mistaken.”
  • If we had “authentic” on one of the posters, I might write that “the only way to build deep, trusting relationships across race is to be authentic.”
  • If we had “organized” on one of the posters, I might write that “passion and good ideas alone cannot make racial justice efforts successful. It also takes organized people who can help move an agenda forward.”

(Distribute a set of post it notes to each participant. Allow participants to offer as many statements as desired.) (5-8 minutes)

Say to group: We’re now going to use the remaining post it notes to write messages meant to support the value of our continued development in this area. How does it deepen our humanity, our spirituality, or our consciousness? Place these notes on the right side of the poster. For example,

  • For “honest,” I might write that “the more honest I am able to be about myself, the more I’m able to recognize my growing edge.”
  • For “authentic,” I might write that “being my authentic self is one of my highest callings.”
  • For “organized,” I might write that “methodically charting steps toward a goal can be a meditation in and of itself, training the brain and psyche to focus and overcome challenges.”

(Give more time to craft these statements.) (5-8 minutes)

Say to group: We’re now going to do a Gallery Walk so that we can all read the various statements generated. As you read the statements, reflect on how the values we hold dear are really essential for racial justice. And how even when we’re feeling challenged, as though we really aren’t exemplifying the values that mean so much to us, these really are moments when we’re called to step further into that value. (Group viewing – 10 minutes)

Say to group: As a final activity, we’re going to take some time to write ourselves a set of affirmations, a meditation, or a prayer of encouragement. The form can be whatever you choose. The idea is for each of us to create something we can keep and read to ourselves during moments when we feel deflated. The purpose is to write something that can generate empathy and inspire motivation for us to stick with the struggle for racial justice. (Individual writing – 15 minutes)

Facilitator’s Note: Depending upon your participants, you might consider extending this activity to include the suggestion to build a small space at home to place items/images from the time in this process. Faith communities might want to create a public area in a community gathering place. These spaces could function as altars that reinforce the intentions and insights gained through the shared time in dialogue.

Large group share:

  1. Would anyone like to read their letter aloud to the group? (No pressure on this!)
  2. What was this exercise like for you?
  3. How can these ideas help us support others?
  4. How might this exploration help us avoid approaching racial justice work from a missionary perspective, with an intent to fix others?
  5. For faith groups: Are there leaders, scriptures, stories, or sacred images about how people moved towards struggle as an embodiment of our most sacred values?

Say to group: As we close, I am going to distribute copies of a short blog article that captures both the pain and the sense of liberation that confronting racism entails. It exemplifies the values we’re uplifting as we move through this text.

Facilitator’s Note: You might also want to email the link to the group so that the various embedded links within the blog post can be accessed.

On Being: The Painful and Liberating Practice of Facing my Own Racism. July 2017. https://onbeing.org/blog/courtney-martin-the-painful-and-liberating-practice-of-facing-my-own-racism/

Wrap up: It is almost a given that as we proceed with racial justice work that our sense of self, our ability to live out our values, will be questioned. If we prepare for this by recognizing how these challenges are part of the personal development work we need in order to deepen our lived experience as humans, we may be able to provide ourselves with the empathy we need to be resilient and take the critique as a constructive challenge, thereby, hopefully, avoiding a negative shame spiral.