Last Sunday my good friend Derrick (a black man) and I (a white woman) talked about the riots.

We come from two totally different worlds. He hails from inner city Detroit and I from suburban, upper class Kentucky.  This leads to great conversations.

I can’t imagine what his world is like any more than he can understand mine. But we do have compassion for each other and are good listeners. And we love hearing each other’s different ideas.

Does it require Inner Strength to create real change?

We talked about whether or not the riots would make any real change in the way blacks are treated. This led us to looking at who in the past had spurred real change in breaking down racism. We talked about people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela. Then we discussed what they did, and why they made such a difference.

The kind of strength each of these people displayed in their actions and words can only come from inner strength, from knowing who you are and following that inner knowing.

They didn’t need anyone to give them permission or agree with their equality. They knew they were equal as everyone else.

Rosa stayed in her seat from a place of quiet strength. She didn’t push against others, she stayed seated for herself. She knew she deserved to sit as much as anyone. If she had been forceful or said cruel words to anyone, there would have been a totally different outcome. 

Nelson Mandela changed a whole country by having compassion for his discriminators and looking for ways to bring South Africans together and show how similar everyone was. He didn’t start this way. He started from a place of riots and armed protest, and pushing against. But while in prison, during the time he was surrounded by whites, he shifted and began to see the value in compassion and how much we all have the same desires and needs.

Violence gives oppressors justification to oppress. “If we don’t control them, no one will be safe” is the mentality. But nonviolent movements shame oppressors because people who resist discrimination in a non-violent way come from a place of great inner strength. This forces the oppressors to acknowledge their brutality and rise to the occasion.

And it’s so evident in videos of protestor’s who are having individual conversations with police and going as far as to bring them water. Those are the conversations from which equality will blossom.

In order to have compassion for others, Mandela had to first have compassion for himself. He  had to keep looking forward not back.

These great people were Inner guided.

If they’d been outer directed, Rosa would’ve given up her seat because she would’ve feared what others thought and would do to her. Nelson would have continued to use violence to eliminate racism because that’s what his friends believed. And Martin Luther King would have let all the threats on his life intimidate and keep him quiet.

Self Leadership is what gave them the strength to keep going in the direction they felt called to go no matter what others were saying or doing.

Nelson lost his family and many friends. But he couldn’t change who he was and he understood why his family and friends needed to leave.

That’s one of the values of being inner directed, you don’t need to fight against what others do or say, you state your perspective from a place of love, strength and knowing. You take the higher road. You just keep walking in the direction you’re guided to go and people start following you.

People like Oprah, Former President Obama, Beyonce and Will Smith. They got to the places they did because they followed their inner knowing, even when other’s told them they wouldn’t succeed. Their inner strength and conviction exudes from their bodies.

Some people will support you in following your own path, others will drop away. There’s a huge and under appreciated amount of strength in non-violent communication.

Does a fulfilling life come from following the masses or your own inner guidance?

It can be a scary path to follow your own inner knowing instead of what others tell you you should do.

People may not like it when you stop behaving in a way that makes them happy. But how’s pleasing others been working for you? Has that led to a fulfilling life?

We all get to choose how we act. 

I’m not pretending I know what’s best for everyone. I don’t know if the riots will create real change in eliminating discrimination or not. 

What I do know for sure, is that people who really made a difference, who were leaders, and looked up to, and still talked about today, were people who came from their heart and knowing and following their own inner guidance, not just following the herd or imitating the masses.