Over the past five months, I have taken the time necessary to reflect on a few important friendships with a series of questions:
What can I do to bring more wholeness to my friends?
Did I ignore painful aspects of their experiences because time was short and I was under a deadline?
Did I make poor assumptions about what I believed they knew, compared to what I believed I knew?
Did I overlook — or even dismiss — their hardships experienced elsewhere because of our other friends in common?
To answer “yes” to any of these questions would call into the question the integrity and authenticity of what I considered to be friendship, right? Of course it would.
Imagine how my friendships could truly flourish if I did more to help my friends feel whole? If I was more sensitive to their words… their unspoken body language. If I spoke less, and instead, listened more acutely. Watched for signs?
Although this post is much larger than me and my friendships, talking about this is a start.
Pull Up A Chair
People travel distinct journeys to ultimately pull up a chair at the table in our lives. Think of these like the conference room tables where meetings are held or dinner tables where family and friend gatherings take place.
Whether by chance or by invitation, people arrive at the tables you and I assemble. We genuinely try to help them in their important work or in the moments when they are engaged with immense challenge.
Somewhere between missed opportunities and violating the most sacred laws of humanity, we sometimes fail — royally — to give these friends and colleagues the respect they should expect.
Anything less than 100%
Before we take on the critical problems of the world…
Before we help each other find purpose…
And sure as hell, before we count which country will win the most Olympic medals…
Anything less than 100% whole people at our table is a fail. It is, as we used to say in in one of my canoe training groups: DFL — “dead f*ing last.”
The Olympic Games begin later this week and please let me be clear — I’m no longer on the front lines. I’m not “in the know.” The grapevine is non-existent for me. It was cut.
Of much more value than being an insider in the Olympic Games movement? I am a dad. A dad of a teenage daughter who is an athlete. Because of this, my life exists closer to the waters where more extraordinary people pursue Olympic excellence than has happened in several quadrenniums. They are doing it despite the chaos, despite the dropping of the torch.
Yet, I’m hurting for a movement with which I’ve identified for a very long time.
I could have done better to make more people at my table whole. These were my missed opportunities. If I couldn’t expect respect for myself, how could I incorporate the personal tools necessary to be an ear for those who pulled up chairs at my table? And help them receive the respect they expected?
I walked away from the system in disgust and mental exhaustion. I thought it was bigger than I could fix. I didn’t realize then what I do understand now — we can solve this with one tool that resides in all of us…
All of us now know that many young women pulled up their chairs to sit at the table of other “leaders” with whom I once worked. These women competed honorably and fairly. They contributed exactly what others expected of them: the mission of the U.S. Olympic Committee. They verbally swore to, and put into action, the International Olympic Games Oath.
They expected the same respect in return. These women sat at the U.S. Olympic Team table HORRIBLY less than whole. And U.S. Olympic Committee “leaders” let them do so for years knowing that these athletes at THEIR table were horribly less than whole.
Expect Respect is more than changing the old ways and old behavior
A few weeks ago, when I used the words, “Expect Respect,” in a Sunday Morning Joe post, Olympic Champion, Aly Raisman, had yet to stand in a criminal courtroom before her perpetrator and address him face-to-face. She had found in herself, and by example let her teammates know that they too had at their access, the personal tool needed for monumental change.
The tipping point of pain is the exact moment when keeping the pain inside is worse than the pain of letting it out.
150 plus young women and girls, battle-exhausted warriors, came forward to speak up and out. Their courageous actions as a team, a team to which they never asked to belong, have tipped the only point that truly matters now.
Expect Respect is about the freedom to respond to the problem
There are Olympic leaders, in the United States and worldwide, reading this post today who have selflessly served the Olympic movement for many years, some of whom are positively guiding athletes into next week’s Olympic Games in Korea.
I love them, their work, and the work of their athletes — all of whom should be provided so much more than what they’ve earned. Respect is parsed out gingerly to them, or not at all, from the organization who has sent them into battle.
Any human being in our circle who is feeling less than 100% whole IS our ONLY concern
It’s Sunday morning here in Spain as you read this. My 16-year-old daughter is about to walk out the door, with kayak paddle in hand and gear bag over her shoulder. She is headed to her whitewater slalom training session.
When she returns, she will open this post in her inbox. This next statement is for her:
If you enjoyed this post, it would mean a great deal to me if you shared it. Please use the hashtag, #ExpectRespect
So, what can you do after a post like this? Let me start by telling you what I am doing… and that is leaning into the leadership of Olympic Gold Medalist and CEO of Champion Women, Nancy Hogshead-Makar.
I believe the Olympic movement is in huge need of one single keystone habit:
Treat and respect people as you would expect others to treat and respect you.
But, this U.S. Olympic Committee is not the obvious choice to instill this ideal in our sports landscape.
Every single part of Champion Women’s work encapsulates this habit, which desperately needs to be taught, practiced, and evaluated not only around the “tables” of sport, but around tables everywhere.
The most critical initiative in front of Champion Women right now is to bring more support and signatures to a petition to protect young athletes from sexual abuse. Ready to sign? Go HERE.
This week, no matter how you feel about the Olympic movement, we can do better. If you believe there’s a different kind of medal-winning performance to be realized, learn more about Nancy’s work by clicking HERE or check out the video below. If this strikes a deeper chord, please share with family and friends.