“The future of humanity will be decided not by relations between nations, but by relations between men and women.” Whether or not D. H. Lawrence was overstating the case in making this prophetic pronouncement, he was pointing to something very real. The crisis in relations between women and men is of massive proportions and is creating profound misery for literally billions of people across the planet.
The purpose of gender reconciliation is to transform the roots of gender imbalance at multiple levels: within the individual, in interpersonal relationships, and in the larger society. Gender reconciliation seeks to provide a safe and skillfully facilitated forum where women and men can jointly examine the subtle knots of cultural conditioning around gender and sexuality, support each other in healing the roots of negative gender dynamics, and address the associated inequities and injustices in the world.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., emphasized, social change does not happen by keeping corruption and injustice hidden, but rather by confronting darkness with the power of love....Gender healing and reconciliation consciously invokes this universal love of the heart, which in the end has the capacity to overcome the very real and formidable challenges of gender oppression and injustice that have tormented human societies for literally thousands of years. In King’s words, if “pessimism concerning human nature is not balanced by an optimism concerning divine nature,” then we “overlook the cure of grace.” The power of love invokes this grace, which in turn facilitates deep healing and fosters authentic social change.
After decades of separate women’s and men’s movements—valuable though they have been—another step is urgently needed: the time has come for women and men to band together to jointly create gender harmony. We must gather in mixed groups to plumb new depths of relational awareness, courageous truth-telling, compassionate listening, empathic sensitivity, and mutual healing. This form of gender work is almost entirely absent in our society, even in progressive social change movements and otherwise highly conscious spiritual communities. Yet there is a powerful yearning on the part of women and men of all sexual orientations—many of whom have done years of work in separate women’s or men’s groups—to now take this next step.
Gender oppression is universal, and all societies would benefit tremendously from authentic gender healing and reconciliation. The whole of humanity is in profound need of a kind of “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in regard to gender injustice and sexism. Humanity as a whole must one day face unflinchingly the full agonizing truth of gender oppression and sexism in our consciousness, our societies, our families, our relationships—our very legacy as a species. We must cultivate a vast forgiveness for the ruinous violations of women and girls, the profound betrayal of men and boys, and the persecution of all those who have not conformed to narrow, rigid heterosexual stereotypes. Humanity will never be able to move fully forward into its next phase of evolution, toward a new civilization of love and harmony, without first reconciling gender imbalance at a far more profound level than has yet been achieved in any contemporary society.
Perhaps this seems like pure fantasy, but in fact we have directly and consistently witnessed the seeds of this process taking place, in microcosm, with thousands of people in our intensive retreats and programs. The women’s and men’s circles begin by addressing their own wounds, their own needs—which is important and necessary, because we have to go through this. But by the end of these gatherings, the men are totally focused on honoring and uplifting the women, and vice versa. The women’s and men’s circles become entirely focused on supporting and celebrating each “other,” and as they do this the greatest gifts come forward, and the real magic—and fun!—begins. Each of these gatherings serves as a kind of “alchemical incubator” in which women and men are jointly pioneering new forms of unprecedented healing and mutual harmony—reclaiming the awe and living magic of the dance between masculine and feminine in human life.
The human heart has the capacity to transcend and heal these rifts. A startling power emerges when human beings gather to explore and reconcile their differences in community. The potential contribution that gender reconciliation offers to the future of humanity is enormous, and is only just beginning.