Ownership – Rev. Stephen “Clyde” Davis

Many years ago I was a neophyte member of a similarly freshly-formed men’s group. I was struggling to find meaning and purpose and hoping to stumble on it alongside fellow seekers. At one point I found myself vigorously defending a member of the group whose communications I felt had been consistently attacked by other group members. I was full of righteous indignation as I wielded my verbal sword on his behalf. Suddenly, I realized the focus of the group had shifted to me – not a very comfortable awareness for me at that time.

Several members attempted to explain to me how I was projecting my discomfort onto the person I thought I was defending. And how, at the same time, that person was not owning his process. That threw me for a loop. I was unfamiliar with the concept of ownership and not inclined to admit I was projecting anything. In fact, I was so sure I was doing the right thing, I continued to energetically defend myself and my fellow group member for weeks, even going so far as calling the two most egregious members “Ownership Nazis,” as they continued their (as I saw it) assault.

I was taking this whole thing very personally and I remember feeling incredibly defensive and overwhelmed by this sudden “unfair” treatment and “bullying.” I was often near tears for not being able to see or appreciate this new perspective. I was also full of shame that I wasn’t even aware because I was so entrenched in such unconscious behavior.

And here these guys, these Ownership Nazis, were persevering in their efforts to make me “see the light” and “win me over…” Well, I was hardly going to open myself up to that sort of vulnerability – no way! As long as I could keep the focus on the other guy and his shortcomings, I would be safe…

I wouldn’t have to admit that my defense of him was really a defense of me.

Only after what seemed an interminable period of time did I begin to get a glimmer of understanding.

I was protecting myself by talking about someone else’s issues.

It was always easier to see someone else’s issues more clearly than my own. I was speaking globally about issues I held dear, and hiding behind terms such as “we,” “everyone,” “you,” “they,” “always,” and “never.” Somehow by using general terms and implying that my experience was universal, I was staying safe and less likely to be confronted or held accountable. I mean – how can anyone disagree with me if I am speaking the obvious and unassailable truth?!

It never occurred to me at that time that the only truly unassailable position, the only really true thing, was my own personal experience.

I couldn’t conceive of standing in my truth if it wasn’t everyone’s truth.

I was so terrified of saying anything that was true for me that wasn’t true for everyone else because I might be wrong. And holding a wrong position meant that I was wrong, which led to more shame.

It took years of diligent attention on my part to finally learn the value of speaking only for myself, to share my individual experience, to stop assuming that what was true for me was automatically true for everyone else. It was very challenging to begin to hear myself and see how often I defaulted to “groupspeak” and projection to keep the focus away from me.

Eventually I came to see that ownership was actually a path to freedom.

I am free when I assume responsibility for myself alone. What is true for me is only true for me – and may change tomorrow. No one can disagree with my truth because it is only my truth. As long as I own my experience and don’t force it on anyone else, as long as I allow you your experience, your truth, and affirm it as yours, I am free.

Taking on the responsibility to act independently of everyone around me, to speak only for myself, and to fully own my experience is what makes me free.

Ted Lothammer, the founding father of People House, said it best: “I am 100% responsible for me, you are 100% responsible for you, and the universe is responsible for everything else.”

Until next time,

Clyde

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth