This past week I was listening to the NY Time’s The Daily on Gloria Allred and her daughter, Lisa Bloom. If you are not familiar with this news, the podcast was detailing how Gloria Allred and her daughter, longtime defenders of women in the legal system, were hired out by Harvey Weinstein to suppress the stories of women who had been victims of his grotesque behavior. I felt such a sense of betrayal listening to how they worked with him to outmaneuver women with less power and stature, robbing them of their voice and ability to find support so that he could maintain his power and continue his harmful behavior toward his female colleagues.
Yet in listening to this story something crystalized for me that had never been quite concrete. Sins of the ego, like selling your services to silence women who have been victims of sex crimes, in exchange for money and publicity are possible anywhere there are people regardless of how altruistic the profession appears on the surface. It makes no different whether one is a fortune 500 CEO, a lawyer who defends women’s rights, or the founder of a major humanitarian organization, ego is possible anywhere.
Several years back I was beginning a career in public health and did not yet understand this. I had come off of two years living in a village of mud huts out in the bushes in Togo, West Africa with the most intense poverty I’d ever seen. At the first jobs I had after graduate school I witnessed some horrible behavior as a result of ego in the highest echelons of global health. For example, a department head that made decisions that had major global health impacts according to what types of publications she needed to enrich her CV.
At the time it made me so bitter and cynical, people in high places, there to serve others who had wandered so far away from their duty to serve. And now I see it. No profession is devoid of ego, because ego is possible anywhere there are people. An executive at a hedge fund can be generous and giving, just as an executive at a climate advocacy group can be selfish and lack integrity.
This means that if we chose a profession that serves others, like building made to measure clothing for women to create opportunity in rural places, we still MUST be vigilant about our own egos. Our ego can lead us to dark, selfish, damaging actions no matter how “selfless” our work looks on the outside.
Building our strength up against ego is a practice. It happens every day. I believe it has to do with remaining connected with our fellow human. Taking time to slow down and talk to people you don’t know, practicing mindfulness, opening our hearts to diverse circles of people. Building your heart muscle up so that it is strong and louder than your mind, which puts everything in terms of me and mine and you and yours.
Our lives can be powerful beyond our wildest dreams. The secret is a strong clear heart and a quiet mind.
Go, fight, win