For a long time, I’ve held the optimistic notion that most people want to believe what they do is righteous. As much injustice as there is, most of us are simply scrambling up Maslow’s hierarchy (or the spiral dynamics) in pursuit of love, esteem, and self-actualization……even if we scramble in ways that might be considered ungraceful, or downright unjust.
For this reason, I’ve never really been one for finger-wagging. I’ve challenged myself not to assume that people who commit what I consider to be injustices are evil and need reprimanding, but to operate as if they believe what they’re doing is noble and are fulfilling shared human desires. Although I disagree with WHAT they do, I try to empathize with WHY they do it.
And I’ve wondered: if we connect with people’s WHYs, might they be more willing to challenge their WHATs? If we approach people who have transgressed by assuming their nobler intentions, might they be more willing to admit wrongdoing? What if instead of sensationalist, gotcha-style finger-pointing, there were a genuine opportunity to say, ‘I wanted esteem, I did wrong, and I’m sorry’? Going further, what if public apologies weren’t mere acts of self-defense, but open expressions of how we’ve learned and grown? What if airing our weaknesses was actually a sign of strength?
It is with these questions in mind that I’ve been chewing on the possibility of a space for public reckoning. A space where people can reckon with things that sit heavy on their conscience, and release them into the public domain. My thinking started with the likes of Bernie Madoff, Donald Rumsfeld, and Fidel Castro releasing their burdens of conscience on their deathbed, and evolved to include everyday people making amends with everyday regrets — people recovering from addiction, parents overcoming intolerance for their LGBTQ children, and veterans working through acts they committed while fighting wars they no longer believe in. (You know, as part of my 5-year plan en route to Fidel et al.)
As my thinking evolved, so did a medium to carry the message: the podcast.
And thus, it is with great joy that I share with the Project Happiness community the launch of my new podcast: Reckonings!
Reckonings features stories from the conscience. I invite police officers, business leaders, veterans, ex-supremacists, and others to reckon with things that sit heavy on their conscience, and openly share their stories. I don’t absolve my guests or sensationalize their stories; I simply offer a space for honest and heartfelt reckoning.
New episodes will be released every Tuesday. So far, most relevant to Project Happiness is episode #2 featuring Mark Whitacre, the FBI informant in the one of the biggest price-fixing cases in US history, who was played by Matt Damon in The Informant. It’s a powerful story of redemption from corporate greed, and discovering that happiness comes not from a life of success, sought by climbing the corporate ladder, but from a life of significance, achieved by fulfilling our true purpose and helping others.
I’m only learning how to manifest my vision in an audio experience, but when I let myself dream out loud, I imagine big benefits of public reckoning:
- Healing for my guests and for the people (or kinds of people) my guests impacted with their actions
- Inspiring my listeners to engage in personal reflection and reckon with their own lives
- Encouraging my listeners to live in deeper alignment with their moral compass
- Building a stronger culture of emotional honesty and compassion
As you enter the holiday season and find more time for reflection, please subscribe to Reckonings on iTunes, take a listen, and leave a review. If you’re feeling extra generous, join the Facebook page and spread the good word. And if you have thoughts, I’d absolutely love to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Stephanie Lepp
Producer at Reckonings
Stephanie Lepp is an artist and strategist, who loves asking big questions and trying to answer them.
An award-winning radio show host, she's the Producer of Reckonings, a podcast featuring stories from the conscience. She's also a Producer at DAYBREAKER, an early morning dance movement that will start your day off unlike anything else, and a Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Future, providing practical foresight for a world undergoing rapid change.
Formerly a strategic consultant specializing in social innovation, Stephanie has been fortunate to lead diverse clients in diverse areas, such as NBCUniversal in corporate social innovation, The Case Foundation in impact investing, and the City of New York in sustainable mobility.
Stephanie lives in Monterey with her husband, a drum set, and a few hula hoops.