Being Neutral is to Disengage and Close Your Heart

Tutu once said If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  These are strong words so let me explain why I agree with him by sharing a story and some insights.  At the start of lockdown, I set up a WhatsApp group for our immediate local community so that we could keep in touch and check in on folk especially the more vulnerable members.  Recently one member posted Katie Hopkins’ video in which she questions the integrity of the #blacklivesmatter protests. It certainly caused controversy on the chat. I felt quite strongly observing initially and then discussed it at length with a couple of neighbours I met out walking.

The path to social justice

It was interesting timing for me as I had just taken part in a six days healing focus rather like a retreat where I took time to meditate and write on the topic of justice and fairness. I came out of that process with a clear sense of what I want to learn in terms of further education. Furthermore, I have been approached to be on the board of a Black organisation with the purpose of changing the face of education here in the UK so that is part of my next step and path. What also has become clear to me as a learning on this journey is that neutrality is harmful. Let me explain why.

Sharing my process and stance as it unfolds

Yes, it takes courage to speak up but to those whom much has been given much is expected. The bigger challenge for me is that I am a very passionate person and can be quite raw with my emotion. This is particularly the case when it feels as if people are going through the motions or playing a role. In those moments it is hard to stop my disruptor from coming to the fore.  As part of the healing focus, I meditated on Ar Ra’uf which means gentleness and kindness.  Afterwards I found myself writing this:

My gift is kindness coupled with fierce love. This allows the softening of my heart so when I need to call out the inconsistencies that I witness, I do so with love and compassion, rather than coming from the anger of the wounded self. I choose to bring healing wielding my sword with laser precision and humbly acknowledge that I am a work in progress.

For some these words hold contradictions but my sense is that if we are to move forward in this world we need to get comfortable with paradox.  For me, this stance helps me be with the world as it is.

How does all this relate to you?

I feel it is important on two counts.  Lockdown has brought up emotions for many and those along with the aftermath emanating from the recent US events reveal the collective trauma we are all in.  Those who’ve studied trauma have learned that when witnesses to injustice do nothing, it’s a greater source of distress for sufferers than the act of brutality itself.  This is because “neutrality” is a form of deep invalidation.

When we humans experience invalidation from others, it sends a message to the survival parts of our brains that we aren’t valued or protected.  Over time this feeling of lack of safety can harm the brain and nervous system, and destroy bonds of trust and connection.

Personal trauma as seen in relationships

The research by the Gottman Institute suggests that in fact this kind of neutrality is perceived as a betrayal.  When you look at couples in relationships, the inability to emphasise often comes from unhealed trauma within.  Take a moment to try this out for yourself: can you remember a time when you were growing up and felt scared, in pain, or unsafe and were told “you brought this upon yourself?”

A way to heal

Working with the Colour Mirrors system, we learn that the experiences that we have are a mirror back to us to help us see what we have not yet accepted in ourselves.  Let’s go back to our couple where one has shared something that has caused them pain and the other has remained neutral unwilling to empathise with them or unable to do so.  Often times this leads to a row because the other person feels as if they have not been heard and so feel hurt and betrayed.

The way to heal that is to take 100% responsibility for your action even if you don’t feel it is all your fault.  Sufis call it tawba.  Don’t try and bargain just accept that you played a role in it whatever happened.  I like to use Hooponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice for forgiveness and reconciliation. The first line of Ho’oponopono “I am sorry;” the second is “please forgive me;” the third is “thank you”; and the final line is “I love you.”

It is a real challenge to take full responsibility in any given situation but the gift when you do ask forgiveness in this way is that Source gives you insights into it at a deeper level than the story.

It also helps you to develop a sense of humility and respect for all other beings so that as Don Miguel Ruiz wrote you stop taking things personally.

If that’s not enough what the Gottman Institute research discovered is that you have to carry out this practice 20 times to heal the limbic brain from one episode of invalidation. 20 times for one incident of invalidation on a personal level with your partner or for any incident where you have contributed to the collective issue of systemic racism. The good news is that neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections – means that practising a form of tawba for small things can lead to lasting change.

What I am saying is that whether we are looking at an incident of personal or collective trauma, we each have a part to play. It is time to take personal responsibility and recognise the power that you have in creating a better world. Together we can create a fairer society where social justice is the norm using a practice like tawba or Ho’oponopono. This will also enable release and the integration of all the parts of you that were hurt in the past so you can stand in your sovereignty.


Kate Griffiths
Kate Griffiths
Some call me the coaches' coach. I work with visionary leaders doing world work who are really good at what they do but haven't found their sweet spot yet. I help them unlock their whole selves by learning to build their intuitive muscle and so create more meaning. Ultimately this enables them to move into expanded awareness and the realms of higher consciousness. This is deep work because it requires you to embrace your shadow so you can discover the gold that is hiding there. You have both masculine and feminine energies within you but somewhere along the way you learnt to rely more on one more than the other making you either more of a "prover" or a "pleaser" Working with me you learn to access both energies so you can increase your presence and enjoy greater influence and visibility. Since 2008 I have pioneered an approach that integrates spirituality and business using Colour by blending the esoteric and the practical. I have found that it can transform every aspect of your life and enable you to develop the tools you need to ride the waves of adversity, you will experience in life. If you want to understand how colour can help then why not read my book Colourful Boardrooms. At the very least it will help you discover what type of leader you are. In 2018 I realised that I wanted to help change the story for the leaders of tomorrow so I set up Colourful Classrooms, a social enterprise, and have gone into schools and communities with programmes to support teachers, parents, and students to have better emotional health and wellbeing by building their awareness around what makes them feel more resilient. In terms of where I hang out:I tend to hang out on LinkedIn, so do connect with me there if you want to continue the conversation. And at the moment I am trialling a new social media platform MeWe which has the feel of the "village green" and to show my support for the stop hate campaign. If you like videos then do subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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  1. Deas I have sat with your response in my heart for the longest time and have the following to share. There is a good deal of truth in what you write and what appears to be a lot of anger too. There is some validity in your perspective on #blm as there is with any particular perspective but it is not the absolute truth – we see any movement or situation as we are not as it is. Finally I totally agree with you re: the pernicious nature of judgment and offer up this quote – Judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. Judgment of any kind is what stops us following our bliss. If you are curious you can read more here –

  2. Thank you Kate for such a thoughtful, beautifully written piece that touches every fibre of my being. Your kindness oozes out of you and that kindness extends to you courageously calling out what’s missing, what we might not see, what we might be falling into which enables us to open our own hearts more fully, listen with more empathy, find our own voice. In my experience, it can be hard to speak up when in an environment you feel unsafe or feel you need to conform to certain expectations. My hope is that together we can create environments for everyone to know that who they are what they do matters. They are able to express their unique thoughts and feelings, free from reprisal of what they say or think and given the opportunity to feel liberated through the process of being heard, understood and appreciated.

    • Jane thank you for your wonderful words. There is a saying somewhere that those with the most compassion are often the ones who have had the biggest wounds to heal so that’s where we start. And #togetherwecan create those environments and bring emotional safety through the work we do creating safe spaces: you through giving leaders time to think; and I through building their emotional resilience. Go well my friend.

  3. Great read, Kate. I am so curious about how the group chat eventually ended? Did you keep observing – staying neutral – or what did you do with the chat?

    I ask with another story in the back of my head. Imagine you overhear a loud disagreement. Eventually the parties disagreeing make up, but you don’t hear that part. Or they are comfortable with conflict and you are not.

    Controversial subjects are a bit similar in that they can stir a lot of people into discomfort, not only with the subject – that is legit – but also with each other. And if the “making up” discussions have gone “offline”, the waters have cleared only for some people but not other parties more peripherally involved.

    • Great question Charlotte. As it happens in a conversation that I had with one neighbour they had done a masters in civic relations and they had framed a brilliant reason response but their life partner urged them not to add it to the chat. It was a missed opportunity because others did respond in a way that shut down the conversation online. Personally I remained in observer mode taking a leaf from the Queen’s book which is that the hardest thing is to do nothing.

      Without more of the context of your situation Charlotte it’s hard to comment but in all things I feel the question is what’s mine in all this? What are you learning? Our role is to model what we want to see and explore any tensions that arise as that may lead us to what we need to work on in ourselves.

  4. Great post Kate, and it resonated with me in many ways. First, like you, my emotions can be raw when I let go of what is on my mind, especially if I have held it in for sometime. Living here in the United States, one of the strongest countries existing, a country that does reach out to those in need, strength in what is considered good, kind and generous, I am disheartened by all the chaos and evil that seems to be spreading, all for the sake of power. I recently signed up to be a Rally Captain with a Banner that would be displayed in front of a police agency. to pray the Rosary for the protection of Police. Needless to say, I received negative support, all because of fear. Having been an officer ofr many years, working the streets of Los Angeles and Orange County, I never once heard of a police officer that wanted to kill or purposely injure anyone. Are there bodies out there that should never wear the uniform?, yes, without a doubt, but they are far and few in between. Bottom line is that what is happening now in our country is that the education system is broken, socialistic ideas have been spread and faith pointing to God has been removed. What more is given, more is expected. Matthew 13:12, and certainly in the current situation of things I feel, what much has been given, much has been taken for granted. Thank you for this piece.

    • Lynn thanks for taking the time to respond and share your experiences. I have been quoting that piece of scripture a lot recently as to those that much has been given, much is expected so that really resonated with me.

      To your wider piece with a coaching client this week we were exploring how more and more people are being called to hold space for the difficult conversations. What was beautiful for her is that she is bi-racial and is bringing her story into work spaces to bring healing; and yet many are judging her for challenging their position.

      This is a tough space to be in and as you point to in your comment in troubled times what we see a lot of is people taking a hardline. Why does this happen? So many are dualistic in nature saying this is good or this is bad; and yet we are called to hold the polarities as one. This is hard to do because with the degree of uncertainty we have, people want to simplify the issues and take a side to gain greater certainty and to feel that they have control. What we need to learn is that we control nothing and the more we let go and surrender; the more the magic can happen. Keep on doing the good work you are doing and modelling the way forward for others.

  5. Thank you for this post Kate!

    I have to admit to nodding my head in agreement throughout your entire piece. I am 18 months free from my abusive marriage. I do think the invalidation from him was worse than the actual abuse. We did couple’s therapy and he’d regularly blame me for his outbursts. And most of the deflection was pure projection. (Example: I’d run in fear with both kids in tow and lock us behind closed doors. He would lose it – punching walls, screaming, and pacing in front of the door. In therapy, he’d say he had no choice but to act out because I wouldn’t get out of his face, he kept trying to run away from me, but I wouldn’t let him. From behind a closed door??)

    Anyway, back to your piece, I feel as though him not taking accountability made it impossible to mend our broken marriage. It wasn’t the abuse that made it unfixable, it was the lack of understanding and his invalidation of my feelings and the events surrounding them. And until I could really process the situation with the safe help from my therapist, having people believe his story and write me off as a crazy ex-wife extended the hurt. Of course I was upset at former friends who were believing his tall tales. They never even came to me, only assumed his version of the truth was how it happened. They didn’t abuse me, but they sure extended the damage from his invalidation and projection/deflection.

    When it comes to collective trauma, invalidating it makes it difficult to mend. When we deflect and project other people’s feelings and experiences, we can’t possibly be empathetic and ready to move forward. And even if we’re not the ones that caused the initial injury, it doesn’t mean our invalidation is invalid. It only continues the pain. Sure we don’t need to be validated to heal (I surely wasn’t) but it would certainly help the process happen quicker.

    • JoAnna thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds very painful especially experiencing the double whammy of ending your marriage AND being rejected by your friends. Sometimes we are asked to let go of so much and the grief and loss that comes from that can be overwhelming. Out of the darkness comes the light and so painful as it is this is part of the rebirthing process so you can become who you were meant to be in this lifetime – a powerful soul.

  6. Hi, Katie Griffiths.
    A good article with some very valid points. Thank you.

    Now I will throw some thoughts out there for you and others to ponder.

    1. Katie Hopkins was absolutely right to question the integrity of the black lives matter. All they have done ANYWHERE is to riot and destroy and much of what they have destroyed belonged to black people. If they were truly serious about black lives being important, why aren’t they out patrolling the streets of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Atlanta, etc., stopping blacks from shooting and killing black people there? Their founders and leaders are self-declared Marxists whose sole aim is the destruction of the current society and the installation of a communist society.

    2. Forgiveness is absolutely unnecessary – – – – unless there has first been a judgement that a ‘wrong’ has been done. And just WHO are ANY of us to judge that it was NOT exactly what the ‘doer’ needed to do to learn some lessons? Sure, we don’t HAVE to like everything that we see or hear in this world but that does not make it ‘wrong’ for others to do or say it.

    3. Personal emotional healing is a choice and ALL of the perceived causes of emotional pain are likewise our own choices.

    4. People will continue to feel invalidation while ever they look to other people for their validation instead of finding it within themselves. The ONLY person whose opinion of what any of us might do or say is that of the doer or the sayer. NOBODY else is walking in their shoes.

    5. There is also a concept which some people call unconditional love. It is simply about loving EVERYTHING that is simply because it is without condition or reservation.

    NONE of the above should be taken to mean that we ought not to strive to leave the world a better place than we found it, always with the understanding that ‘better’ is also a personal and subjective assessment.

    Just my 0.02.

    You have a wonderful day. Best wishes. Deas Plant.