As idealists, we often place much of our emphasis on addressing external problems, whether these pertain to violence, discrimination, or economic injustice. In our line of work, self-effacement may be viewed as virtuous, perhaps even necessary to the monumental task at hand. After all, how can we take time to slow down and introspect when there are so many injustices in the world, so many wrongs that need to be righted?
However, unless we become more conscious of who we are as total human beings, and gain full awareness of everything we bring to the table (both the perceptual biases and prejudices instilled in us by our culture, as well as our individual strengths and weaknesses), we are likely to proceed in a mechanical fashion. In this more or less automatic state of mind, many mistakes will be made which we may or may not be prepared to adapt to and resolve. This process can be very discouraging, causing our glowing idealism to revert to cynicism or despair.
Being individuals committed to a better world, we never intend to offend others or introduce negativity into a situation. This makes it all the more frustrating when these occurrences persist, and all the more difficult to accept them when they do. Often they just seem to slip out or occur automatically in spite of our best efforts. An unfortunate truth is that it is much more challenging to actjustly in our daily lives than it is to advocate justice. We often can recognize when we have acted unjustly through the experience of negative emotions like guilt. However, it is all too easy to rationalize these experiences and project their root causes onto our external environment. If we are confident that we act with overall benevolent intent, it seems to be unjust perception on the part of the other when our actions are not recognized as such. However, this paradigm is extremely problematic, even in interpersonal relations with members of our own culture who perceive the world in a similar way. When the relations are intercultural, it is even more imperative that we recognize that intent does not equal impact. If the problem does not lie with intent (as idealists, we have this area covered), the question then becomes: how do we effectively manage our impact?
Naturally, we cannot create a better world without first achieving a clear vision of what this world would look like and how it would function.