“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Ghandi
Not only can you NOT shake hands with a clenched fist but there are also many other things you cannot do with a clenched fist. Perhaps from a more positive perspective…with a clenched fist, I can do very few productive and life-giving things. In fact, one could say that there is very little I can do with a clenched fist that I can truly feel good about.
When I imagine a clenched fist, what comes to mind first is fighting. Quickly behind that are the image of a wall and the idea of a stronghold of determination…determination to defend, hold on to and preserve at all costs. At some point I have to ask myself what am I defending and at what cost, not only to myself, but also to those around me, and those on the other side of the table?
Another question, who am I serving? Am I fighting to defend or to hold on to a universal truth or value? Or, am I fighting to maintain the illusion that I am in control? If it is the latter, I am pretty much slamming the door in the face of openness and all the possibilities that may lie ahead. What could be! If only that fist would open and that wall be taken down.
In the movie based on Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda, the father says to Matilda, “Listen, you little wiseacre: I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” What a great example of the attitude behind a clenched fist!
It is sad to experience and to think about how much is lost or destroyed as a result of clenched fists; the potential that is never seen, never given a chance to develop. It is disappointing when that which a group or an individual has to offer, when their gifts and what makes them special, creates a barrier to meaningful work and the development of mutually beneficial relationships; when it causes division or angst instead of unity and acceptance and an environment where the greater good is the focus.
With clenched fists, nobody wins. There can only be peace and unity, working together and building up, and authentic collaboration where there is an open fist…open hands…open minds and open hearts. Where there is a willingness to let go, to lay aside what is comfortable and what is “known,” and to come to the table with a desire to learn from that which is new and different, to accept others as they are and to give them, and ourselves, the room (love, encouragement, patience, kindness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness) to grow.