It is not my responsibility to teach others how to be good people.
This realization became crystal clear when attempting to outline on paper my grievances with a personal relationship this morning. When the words became stunted, wouldn’t parade across the page in the manner I am accustomed to, I took note. Though I could have easily attributed the absence of flowing thoughts to any number of physiological expressions of fatigue, I knew it was more than that. There was really just no place to start. I am not, nor should I be, adept at teaching another human how to be a good human.
There is a virtually silent expectation placed upon people with disabilities to be heroes. Society seems to demand a kind of characteristic superiority, broadcasting the message that we need to correct for other perceived deficiencies. Although I don’t believe that I naturally assumed the role of advocate and community disability awareness educator, I now know there is nothing spontaneous about this. These identities were cultivated not only from need within my personal life to navigate my education and receive imperative social services, but through socialization.
It somehow has become incumbent upon people with disabilities to demonstrate to others how to be compassionate. We have unwillingly become the moral compass, with others looking to us for direction. Although I have spent a lifetime as an ambassador for inclusion, for equal rights, for shifting the paradigm toward empowerment, none of these roles are due to responsibility.
Making the distinction between my choice to provide educational awareness training and an obligation to cultivating compassion within individuals is noteworthy. I don’t have to attempt to help others find shared humanity. The poor behavior I may witness is not a personal burden. I am not obligated to sprout a seed of love from seemingly untenable soil.
This realization helped me gain clarity that when the words don’t flow, when I can’t string together coherent guidance for finding compassion, maybe I don’t have to. Perhaps instead of internalizing others’ problems as a personal call to action, I can recognize that I have a choice. I can instead choose to surround myself with those who are already capable of exemplifying the love, acceptance, compassion, and belonging I’ve spent a lifetime attempting to embody.
Just as my disability does not provide me with superhero character or inherent wisdom, it also doesn’t demand social activism. The best act of community service and self-care I can demonstrate is choosing to recognize and walk away from interactions that don’t nourish me. I can redirect my intentions away from prescribed stereotypes associated with my disability and toward the kind of existence that feels good right here, right now.
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