Sacredness and Justice

“When we don’t know who we are, we act like someone else.”
(Tiffany Sankofa) RecapIn last week’s blog I mentioned that we humanfolk tend to get caught up in striving for importance. I stated that we are all sacred regardless of our performance. I challenged you to spend one whole day, reminding yourself that each person you encountered, irrespective of their role or their behavior, is a sacred being.

How did that go? Was it harder sometimes than others?

I also mentioned that the sacredness of each person amplifies the need for us to meaningfully address a person’s behavior when it conveys that they are not viewing themselves or those around them as sacred. Here’s a great example:

The Red Road Historically, for many Native American and First Nations peoples like theNavajo, the Yurak and Quechan and others, “justice” wraps around those guilty of a crime recognizing that they are acting in ways that aren’t aligned with community values. If a crime has been committed, someone has violated the sacredness of both the victim and of themself. Interventions are designed to remind the person of that very fact and restore them wholeness in the community. They are offered support, resources, and opportunities to better see how they fit in the sacred community. (This 4:33 YouTube video demonstrates this beautifully.)

If the person shows that they will continue to harm the community, they have to be put out. This is a very serious act, as it means cutting the person off from their identity, the place and people where they belong, and their rootedness. It is painful for them and to all who are connected to them. It’s not to be done lightly or vindictively. It’s only done when something has made it impossible for the person to see their sacredness and the sacredness of others.

Even with that, there is a place for restoration to the community if the person finds their way back to understanding sacredness.

In one such Restorative Justice program in Manitoba, Canada, an accused person’s holistic needs are assessed, and a path forward is designed to bring them back to the understanding of their own sacredness including how they fit into the community in healthy ways. A full 94% of participants successfully complete the program and do not return to the criminal justice system.
In Contrast The criminal justice system in the US treats the incarcerated as non-people, even after they have served out their sentences. We act surprised when, released from prison, people who have been told they have no importance and have no place in the community act accordingly and re-offend.

Efforts at rehabilitative justice often fall flat as the national mindset tends to be consumed with a shame-based, punitive approach to infractions. Our multi-billion dollar, for-profit prison system is more than happy to fuel that fire.

Unsacred Greed When people make a whole lot of money doing any particular thing, they tend to use a good chunk of that money keeping themselves in business. We see it in the prison system, the healthcare industry, in pharmacology, in insurance, consumer credit and so forth. Basic human needs for safety, health, and financial stability have been monetized by industries that benefit from us not doing well.

These industries do not treat each being as sacred; They treat each being as a potential commodity to enhance their wealth. Further, they promote a lie that if we are incarcerated, need health care, can’t afford insurance, or actually need to borrow money, we not only have failed, but we are failures. Do you smell the shame on that?

Shame The idea of shame - that we are something wrong when we have done something wrong - directly violates the truth that we are all sacred. People have used shame to manipulate others since the dawn of time. It’s a very old story.

If we forget we are sacred, we are much more likely to over-give to someone who has something we need. These transactions deteriorate the user and the used. It is sacred community well out of balance.

Truth Telling Holding each person as sacred requires a level of honesty that gets buried when we are steeped in shame. When we engage shame-think, we make choices based on what we can get away with, rather than what we want or don’t want. We also project shame onto others. In this environment, it’s not safe to speak the truth. If you know the truth about this un-sacred thing I’ve done, (in the shame system,) I am now a less-than person. I’m going to do everything I can to hide what I’ve done to avoid that awful feeling. Ironically, this makes shame worse.

In contrast, when we consider each person sacred, holding up the mirror to behavior that didn’t uphold sacredness is necessary for each person to come back into alignment with their sacredness. We don’t lose essential connection when we make mistakes.

We are all sacred. When we recognize that, we can live in balance. ..................................................................................................

Is shame keeping you from holding onto the idea that you are a sacred being? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s talk.