To be honest, a large part of me has wanted to stay silent. Social media is on fire with reactionary comments to inflammatory remarks. As one person described it, social media has become a “dumpster fire” – uncontrolled chaos. As another said, it’s become a “popularity contest” – everyone feeling the need to throw their log onto the fire: the social pressure to do so seemingly insurmountable. I, too, have felt that pull. I feel that if I don’t define myself or Southpaw online, that I will be labeled because of the things I am associated with.
But isn’t that exactly what has been causing all of this divisive rhetoric in the first place? Judgment based on surface-level observations rather than taking the time to get to know the human underneath?
As a small business owner, I have been watching the tragic events in Minnesota unfold over the past weeks. I watched in horror as the CEO of CrossFit made inflammatory remarks that increased the divisiveness and racial tensions that have been fanned to levels we have never seen before. The lack of thoughtful or productive leadership will cause us, as a company, to evaluate our affiliation. But to focus on his rhetoric, right now, is to give him attention that he doesn’t deserve and to take away from the more important conversation that needs to happen.
The conversation is this: we have a cultural problem that needs to be solved on an individual level. The systemic issues that plague our institutions will only be truly reconciled when each of us, as individuals, learn to acknowledge the humanity in others. Are there policies, procedures, or other structural changes that can help? Absolutely. But the beginning and the end must be in the hearts and minds of each of us.
To me, THIS is why I fell in love with CrossFit, and what CrossFit epitomizes to me. Let me explain:
One of the primary reasons I love group fitness is that it brings people together. There is something about suffering through a physical challenge that unites those who participate. Why does this happen?
Throughout my years of coaching, I have come to this conclusion: in the midst of suffering, we recognize the common thread of humanity that we share with each other. When I see someone clench their jaw - their face creased with pain - as they fight to get one more rep, it allows me to see myself in them. They are human. They struggle, too. They search for love, acceptance, and meaning in their life. They have moments of joy, they experience failure and doubt, and they continue to press onwards.
This is something that is almost impossible to convey through hashtags, a filtered picture, or a message in 160 characters or less. There is something primal about person-to-person interaction: something that cannot be replicated on social media no matter how hard we try. While it IS important to establish a brand identity online, it is much more important to build a culture – and a community – that embodies the values we claim to hold.
The suffering and tragedy our society is experiencing right now is heartbreaking. It is important to acknowledge that we, as humans, ARE different: different colors, different jobs, different socioeconomic statuses, different builds, different genders, different religions, and different preferences.
Our differences can make our world beautiful: they can allow us to learn from each other, to engage in meaningful dialogue, to collaborate, and to create things we never could have imagined from our individual worldview.
But our differences can also make our world ugly: they can be used to spew hate, to justify derogatory behavior, to bully, and to incite destruction.
Now, more than ever, it is important for us to seek out the humanity in others. To try to understand where the pain is coming from. Our collective suffering is showing us that people on both sides are hurting. They are crying out for help - they are living in fear.
There is no path to reconciliation that does not involve empathy. To persuade, we first need to understand.
At CrossFit Southpaw, we want to learn about you. We want to get to know your story - what makes you unique? What makes us similar? How can we help each other grow? How can we make the world a better place? As a company, as a community, and as a gym - we must begin here.
And we must draw these lessons, that have not been easily won, into society as a whole. We need to acknowledge our differences and we need to use these differences to collaborate and heal. Though we are facing a collective problem we need to begin and end on an individual level: seeking first to understand.