The odds often feel impossible. Radicals and progressives are working on a myriad of issues and often little progress seems to be made and even more sadly it seems like we are going backwards on important issues (campaign finance reform in the US jumps to mind and if my reading of the real motivation for much of the tea party movement is correct, we appear mired in our racist attitudes as well). Sean Peters and i have been chatting in the comment section of my recent post about Snarking at Forbes inspiring activists and how to beat burnout.
I’ve talked to lots of people who do political work, often in headachy or lonely circumstances and there appears to be an especially powerful antidote for burnout: appreciation. When people are drive to do what they are doing for principally ethical or political reasons (rather than personal or monetary ones) what they need most is recognition. This need not be a plaque or a tribute event, simply well-chosen kind words or an unexpected email can be sufficient. It gets back to the idea that we collectively dont write enough love letters, using the broad definition of love letters.
My favorite exercise to prove this in the Honest Seduction workshop is to ask participants to think of the person who they appreciate most who they have not well expressed this too. It need not be someone who they are romantically attracted to. And write them a short letter of appreciation and acknowledgement. After they have completed this task, i ask them if it is the case that the world will be a better place if this letter is sent. The recipient will feel seen and respected, the author of the letter will be more fully expressed and complete in their communication. Everything is better.
So consider this homework assignment. Spend a few minutes thinking of someone who does political work which inspires you, but you have not really fully expressed it. Write them something thanking them for this. DONT fell like you need to be comprehensive in your praise, this will prevent the letter from getting finished. Give yourself 20 minutes, and when you are done, just send it. I am going to do it now.