Bearing Witness

Here is a hard cold reality. Those fights we fight, to ensure egalitarian change in this world, might not bear fruit in our lifetime. It may take another generation for the seeds to take root and blossom. It might take a few seasons for mature growth and robust fruiting. We must not be discouraged.

Sometimes, the only thing you can do is to bear witness. But, there is a power to bearing witness. It is a sacred part of ceremony.


There is a proper way to bear witness. I don’t know the ins and outs of a traditionally taught method. I only know the ways that I have learned through trial and error and prayerful meditation. I will share with you what I know, but I encourage you to look into your soul and spend some time developing the path that is laid out for your soul in this journey.

Make friends with your rage.  I know. That sounds weird. I have found myself caught up in the fires of rage too many times to count. It can consume you. It definitely creates a cascade of physical effects that are not beneficial to your health. The spiritual consequences, not just for your own life, are pretty staggering too. I have felt the rage leave me and sensed it travel away from me, in the ethers. That is pretty unnerving. For a while, I thought that I ought to manage it, and part of the action plan was to try to silence it. That didn’t work out well. For anyone. What happened more often than not was that my sacred rage, having been silenced, would then show up as pointless rage, with consequences that did not yield good results. I have since learned to make friends with my rage, to note it when it shows up, and to ask it to burn out the dross and show me the true, root cause of why I am raging. I still have a lot of work to do here, but so far I’m grateful for the grace that has been given to me to work through my rage without causing physical harm.

Ask the right questions. I used to ask, “how can I fix this?” and would proceed to move forward to try and solve something, but with a limited understanding and knowledge of what the root cause problem was. I still have a tendency to want to ‘fix’ things, as a knee-jerk reaction. I think that’s human nature. I also have a strong tendency to want to tell people what to do to fix the problem. That’s just MY nature. 🙂 Let me tell you, from hard-won experience, that people don’t generally like to take advice on how to fix problems. They might listen to you, but if you don’t fully understand what the real problem is, you aren’t helping in a meaningful way, so your ‘solution’ is probably half-baked anyway.  I have learned to try to put myself in a position where I am able to ask questions. Which also requires that I be willing to listen. Truly listen. Listening, when done right, isn’t done with the ears on the side of the head. It’s done with the ears on the side of the heart. Something funny happens when I listen with my heart. I have stopped seeing adversaries (mostly). I can, more often than not, see people who are hurting. I can sense that they are caught up in their own patterns of rage, or blame, or punish. Now, it’s important to note that some of the questions you might ask have no good answer, at least not immediately. One question might lead to another question. Or it might take some time for the question to percolate into the soul and come up with an answer that makes sense. Know this going in. It helps you to not lose sight of your part as a witness.

Keep your moral compass calibrated. This kind of relates back to the “make friends with your rage” part. If you are morally calibrated, you are more likely to undertake an action that has good outcomes for everyone. It can be really easy, in the rage, to say something about a person who appears to be an adversary – maybe to their face, maybe not – that causes harm to their spirit. If your moral compass is calibrated to respect people where they are, even if they are not behaving respectfully, you will be less likely to say something to them or about them that is damaging. We keep hurting each other. In big ways and small ways. We perpetuate cycles of violence and harm, because we forget to calibrate our moral compass. I guess I’m making an assumption here that you, dear reader, have a  moral compass aligned to honoring all life. Forgive me if that characterization does not apply to you, but I hope that you are able to find an example of keeping your moral compass calibrated that works for you. As a principle, I believe it is solid.

I could go on and on, but I’ll close it out here for now. I still have a ton of learning to be undertaken as it pertains to bearing witness. I hope that you can see the value of bearing witness in a season where the effects of your struggle to change might not manifest for several seasons. I hope that it gives you respite from the worry of whether or not your fight will mean anything. Trust in the goodness of your heart, and take courage in the power of being a good witness.


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Twylia (the 'i' is silent)

~ I am Anishinaabe-kwe with Scottish heritage and Sami DNA. I speak on the behalf of no one but myself. My ancestors inform and guide me. My voice is but one of many who are calling for change. We have much work to do to create a good space for the real human beings who are waiting to be born.

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