Youth empowerment (it’s good for adults, too)

13 Mar

I really like the vision for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. According to the singer:

This is not an antibullying foundation. This is a youth-empowerment foundation. This is about combatting meanness and cruelty. This is about inspiring bravery in young people and their parents and culture worldwide to work toward a kinder and more accepting society… We do not make a distinction between the bully and the victim (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2108029,00.html).

Rather than targeting kids who bully as The Problem, the foundation addresses the root of bullying: meanness. This approach is much more humane than vilifying kids (whom we know tend to bully because they themselves have been bullied, abused or neglected). It’s also much more proactive: while we tend to think of people as being Bullies, Victims, Bystanders or Upstanders, the truth is that each of us is capable of bullying, being a victim, standing by and standing up. As Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock says, we think of ourselves as nouns, when we’re really verbs. What role we play depends on context, opportunity and personal choice. Rather than focusing on labels for people, the Born This Way Foundation strives to recognize each individual’s capacity and choice to be kind. 

When asked by Time magazine “how an 11-year-old girl might follow Gaga’s advice and become more empowered, the singer-songwriter, 25, replie[d]: ‘She could go up to one person in class who maybe is not one of the cool kids and say, “I really like your T-shirt.” That would be her one great loving and accepting deed for the day'” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2108029,00.html).

I love it.

So here’s an invitation: today, commit one loving and accepting deed, beyond your usual community or habits. It doesn’t have to be global, dramatic or risky. As Gaga points out, it starts with what we say and do every day. 

For more on the foundation, go to: http://bornthiswayfoundation.org/.

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