Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Metamorphosis of Courage

"No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

When a person is fired, it usually takes it's emotional toll on him or her.  Being fired is a complete rejection of who one is as an employee, as a social person and, as a complete human being. Some people never recover from the rejection and abandonment. They lack the inner strength, especially when there is unlawful discrimination, to rise above the insult and nourish and love themselves. Oftentimes, the self-doubt is greatest when the person has been abused, either verbally, physically and sexually in the past. I refer many people who come see me to counselors and psychiatrists, hoping these professionals know the cure. 

Yet, oftentimes I observe a completely different phenomena that obliterates my clients' self-loathing, self-doubt and fear. The cure I see emerges from my clients' willingness to stand up and fight. I have watched many a client blossom into self-confident, self-possessed fighters, merely by embracing litigation and sometimes trial. Without exception, when I have a client willing and brave enough to fight, they fight not only for themselves but for others, hoping that their struggles will prevent the next unsuspecting employee from experience the hell of discrimination or harassment. They are peaceful soldiers steeped in a war to better the human condition. 

What transforms these sometimes meek and frightened characters who report for battle into warriors for justice?  I suspect I know and I suspect the virtues my brave clients develop are those qualities attainable by all of us. 

Here is what I think happens:

1,   The mere act of confronting the company and standing for what is right empowers and liberates victims of discrimination. 

2. When one stands and fights for honor for themselves and for the dignity of themselves and others, it takes one out of oneself. No more does the client obsess about victimhood, but he or she becomes a fighter for justice. It is not only about the self, but about the greater good of society.

3. If the client is able to be open and absorb the harder life lessons, he or she learns that nothing anyone else says can really affect what one feels about who he or she is. In the book, "The Four Agreements," this principle is explained as, "Don't take anything personally."  Although a hard state to achieve, when one refuses to take anything personally, he or she is truly able to better himself and others. She has self-confidence and can blossom and grow. She knows that the speaker's words are reflections of who the harasser is, and not who the hearer is.

When you take on the company and win, and even sometimes even if you lose, it changes you. You know you are up to fighting for what's important. You know they can't bring you down. No one can control how you feel about yourself. You are empowered. 

Part of my satisfaction in representing these budding heroes, is watching their process. Oftentimes, when clients first come to me, they are wounded, scarred and scared. It is so gratifying to watch their evolution, their growth into the courageous people they truly are. If they can put up with nasty cross-examination, bitter innuendo, and down-right insults, they know they can deal with anything because they love themselves and know they deserve better. Watching my clients' metamorphoses is the pinnacle of my job as a trial lawyer.  You'd be surprised at how strong and confident most people can become when put to the test.  I believe we all have untapped inner strength and I so admire the ones willing to tap into it.  I have a wonderful job. 

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