when our deepest values get violated.

Post-election I’ve been thinking a lot about Nonviolent Communication. I’m not the best at it but I try. It’s been incredibly helpful for me as a tool to notice how unhelpful jackal words are in building connection between people (and how much they’ve been used since November 9th and oh, I’ve said my fair share) and also how underneath all of my feelings are needs.

For me, another way I describe needs are core values–values that guide and fuel and propel and compel me.

That connect me to my soul and God and other people.

That fuel me.

That propel me.

That compel me.

We all have different values/needs. They aren’t good or bad or right or wrong; they just are.

And here’s what I realized this weekend in a more clear way: The reason I’m a whack job right now is that Donald Trump’s election violated my deepest needs, my core juice, what I care about the most–mutuality and equality and dignity.

These three go hand and hand. If I lined them up, I’d say the foundational one is dignity. Out of dignity comes equality and out of equality comes mutuality.

Underneath all of them, the net that holds them all together is healthy power (aka just-ness). The kingdom of God kind, the living systems kind.

It’s what I care about more than anything else because I think all roads lead to power. When it’s tipped the way it naturally tips in a world bent against equality, dignity is stripped and mutuality becomes impossible.

Seeing this kind of unhealthy power rise is the ultimate violation to me and is tied to pretty much everything I have struggled with related to church systems and how-the-world-works systems. That bizarrely unqualified male-dominated power seems to win. That the strong get stronger. That power begets power. That marginalized people are always the bottom of the food chain. That misogyny triumphs.

For me, this election isn’t about Republicans and Democrats or the candidate I voted for not winning. That would be a blip on the radar, a little bump in the road.

This election has been about my core values being violated not by just any old politician, but by the alignment made with many Christian brothers and sisters.

That alliance, no matter how removed from me, has made the violation even deeper.

It makes sense why I have felt sick to my stomach because while our heart feels, we live out of our center.

It makes sense why I have been flooded with countless memories of dysfunctional leadership and sexism and classism and racism and scripture-ism and too many ugly conversations and interactions to count that have made me and the people I care most about less-than in the face of “power.”

It makes me weep.

And it makes more sense why–this tapped into that channel and violated the deepest things I care about.


But I’ve also been thinking about how many others who are on the other side of the aisle from me, who voted and believe completely different from me, also have had some of their core values threatened and violated as well.

Theirs look different and feel different but they are just as real for them and why they get up in the morning, too.

And that’s where empathy can emerge–when we can respect that every person who is also distressed, no matter which side of the coin, also has core values that when threatened, deeply trouble them as well.

I also hate admitting that my core values aren’t more important or more valuable or more anything than another’s (although they sure feel that way to me).

There are hundreds of different kinds of values and needs lists, but I think it can be a useful exercise to consider in different ways:

  • What are some core needs/values that guide you, propel you, compel you?
  • How did this election affect them?
  • What feels violated, if anything (we’re all in different places on this)?

Acknowledging that we are all struggling with it in different ways because of our core values does help me breathe a little.

To own my own story, my own core, my own fuel, even if others don’t understand it.

And to respect other stories, their core, their fuel, even if I don’t understand it.

Warning: every time you try to do this, you will possibly be like me and find a way to make your values more important than someone else’s. Goodness gracious, it’s embarrassing, how easy that comes for me. How quickly I can elevate mine to the top rung of importance.

Today, I’m not trying to figure it all out and make it all work and have it all wrapped up in a neat little bow.

I’m not going to dismiss my core violations just because others have been, too.

I’m just going to stick with this: It’s worth looking at what value(s)/need(s) got violated through this election.

Owning that and listening for the deeper thing is a good step to understanding why we feel so nuts.

Next is: What value(s) or need(s) might have been violated in some of those we disagree with?

Ack, I’m only about 5% ready for that, but that is an improvement on yesterday. Plus, a little goes a long way. If you’re like me, you can add it to the list of annoying-things-Jesus-calls-us-to-consider-when-we-really-don’t-want-to-but-it’s-good.

In fact, when thinking about a friend and their core value and their response to the election, I actually felt the very first burst of true empathy I’ve had for someone on the other side. 

Wow, I felt a little like the Grinch when he starts to feel.

This spark of empathy helps me retain my own dignity, and extend dignity to others even though I disagree with them.

It’s a teeny weeny start on a long bumpy road.

God help us all.

With you in the thick of this, Kathy


ps: Our recent episode of Faith Circus is on Post-Election Angst if you want to listen in. It’s raw & hard but what we’re trying to do there–process out loud together in the middle of our differences.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

One Comment

  • I have used the word “violated” more than once to describe my feelings since the election, and thank you for articulating that so strongly. I too, for the first time, actually could FEEL the perspective of someone who voted for Trump, who said they have suffered through unemployment while watching people they see as less deserving (illegal immigrants) receive services they could not get. I saw it. I felt it. I understand how they felt unseen, and that their dignity was attacked. I’m not sure I’m even to 5% yet to be honest, but I think that is the common ground we can potentially find. That all people are deserving of dignity and equality. I will hold to the fact that Trump attacked that dignity for more people in more groups from more places EVER, and I still disagree with a vote for Trump being the answer for the person I felt with. I still believe that her vote showed that she prioritized herself above others, that she wanted dignity for herself but was OK with oh-so-many-other people not having it. I hope that she joins me in advocating for people other than herself. And that’s where I am for today.


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