In a recent post on leadership I proposed that facilitating open dialogue is a central aspect of leadership. That if we are to move into new horizons – that is, feminist horizons of mutual communal empowerment and liberation – we must be willing to both risk and dialogue, and a leader is one who helps facilitate those practices.
Dialogue and the practice of making room for one another’s voices and contributions do not come easily to us however. Humans have a tendency to stifle and squelch one another especially if we sense that our privileges and comforts, our truths and our convictions, are being challenged or threatened. And so the breakdown in dialogue can result in the literal prevention of change and possibility – the possibility and actuality of entering into a more divine reality and way of relating. A leader then must be someone who can recognize and be aware of change-stifling powers, be willing to name and resist them, and help facilitate the creation of a literal time/place space for open participation and dialogue. This new open space has the potential and literally becomes the womb from which something new may be birthed…it is a fluid, messy, mysterious place, and not one necessarily easy to exists within, but absolutely necessary if seek to contribute toward a more just and beautiful existence. Open dialogue is a necessary part of helping create this new womb space where differences (of perspective, voices, people) can come together to interact and spark with one another in order to morph and change and thus birth something new together. How then does leadership help to facilitate this process?
The first thing to recognize is that leadership is a communal effort. It is not true leadership if a leader thinks they are doing things alone or thinks they have the best and fullest insight to offer. Leadership is first of all a team effort. Leadership is a group of people coming together with their diversity of gifts and talents ready to contribute them toward the well-being of the community.
Leaders who aim to participate in birthing the new must also be comfortable with the mysterious and the unknown. People who are venturing toward a new divine reality must have a secure enough place from which to explore, experiment, and take risks. This is why community is so vital. A community of people willing to engage and participate with one another through open dialogue into the yet-unknown-though-hopefully-more-divine reality, can help offer that measure of safety required in our bones that allows us to make those risk-taking decisions that both exhilarate us and scare the wits out of us. For this Courage is also required.
Leadership requires courage. Mary Daly defined the Courage to Sin as “the Courage to be intellectual in the most direct and daring way, claiming and trusting the deep correspondence between the structures/processes of one’s own mind and the structures/processes of reality; the Courage to trust and Act on one’s own deepest intuitions” (Wickedary, pg. 90). For her, ‘to sin’ was to participate in Be-ing, that is, to participate in Ultimate/Intimate Reality, the ground of be-ing which is Verb, the ever-living and changing Goddess.
It is not an easy thing to trust and act out of our deepest intuitions – sometimes we don’t even know how to recognize the divine voice deep within. But good leadership helps create the space that provides room and allows time for birthing the Courage to trust and act out of our deepest intuitions. Thus, I think it is necessary that we discern and journey together. A community of courage and open dialogue can help facilitate and sustain us as we discern the deep wisdom that would move us toward the more beautiful and just existence that many of us so deeply desire.
I propose that we must all be leaders. I propose that all of our participation is needed in the task of creating the new womb space from which we could birth something new together – the space in which we can sustain open dialogue and risk toward the yet unknown. What deep impulse from within our soul needs to be expressed? What holds us back? And in what ways might we be the leaders that help facilitate this exploration and discernment for ourselves and one another? What might it mean for us to lead with the Courage to Sin and Sin big?
Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and theologian currently completing her PhD at Boston University School of Theology in practical theology with a focus on ecclesiology. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably interconnected and the good one can do in any one area inevitably and positively impacts all others.