Words of Power: Delenn

Stay with me on this, it’s gonna get pretty nerdy, but it’ll make sense by the end. There’s a few things about Babylon 5 that stick with me, and this is one of them. I do that a lot with media, latch on to little pieces which I think are gold, or that teach me something. When I think of Delenn, I think of the difference between how I see the world, and how I’d like to see the world. 

Delenn is a character from Babylon 5, a science fiction tv show from the 90’s, written by J. Michael Straczynski. Played by Mira Furlan, she’s the ambassador to the space station Babylon 5 from an alien ciivilization, a spiritual leader among her people, and a key character in the series. This isn’t a biography, but you should check it out.

What always hits me about her isn’t something she does, but something one of the other characters says about her late in the series. In Rumors, Bargains, and Lies, her aide says

“Delenn does not walk in the same world you and I walk in. She does not see the same world you and I see. In her world we are better than we are, we care more than we care. We act towards each other with compassion.”

It got me thinking. See, I have these moments where I walk in that world, to use the metaphor. I don’t just see things as they are, but as they could be, and how they could be better. I see people, and realize that they’re muddling just like me, that they see themselves as doing things for good reasons, even if that turns out not to be true. When I’m in that space, it’s not that I think all people are good, but I see the bits of them which are good in a clearer light, and by seeing them, am in a better position to nurture those qualities.

I don’t actually see anything different than what is, but I think about those perceptions and treat them differently. This isn’t a mystical experience, I just I find that I’m more charitable and more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt when I’m thinking about that. It’s like how we turn problems into opportunities, which is about changing how we react to them. It’s also self-applicable. I think about myself, how I do things, and why, and often see ways that I can do better.

But I want to make this useful, rather than simply an interesting statement, and think about some ways this can help us in our daily lives. Here are three things you can learn from Delenn and her vision which you can start doing today, and will help you build relationships and be happier.

  • Assume Positive Action: Treat people as if they’re doing their best. People invariably have a lot going on, and complicated webs of interests, so I find that it’s better to treat people as though they’re making their best effort rather than the opposite. I know I’ve had projects where I just haven’t had time to give my very best effort, just the best effort I could afford, and being recognized like that inspires me to do more the next time. It’s really about focusing on what people have given rather than what they haven’t.
  • Remind People Who They Are: Too often, I think we downplay our good qualities, and that makes sense. I know when I do a song or write something and come back to it later, all I can see are the flaws. We forget the good bits, and need to be reminded sometimes. So be the one to do that reminding, which also helps you pay attention to those qualities.
  • Stand Up: Sometimes things are hard, but if you’re walking in that world, then nothing is insurmountable. When times are their hardest, we need other people that we can count on to support us. Lead by example and be one of those people, because sometimes we forget they exist. Whenever you look at yourself in the mirror, remind yourself that you want to be one of those people. Remember, you are better than you are.

There’s a lot more packed into there, but when I think of her, I think of that line. I think about how I want to be the sort of person that people say that about, not because I’m functionally delusional, but because I make an effort and take the time to recognize and nurture people’s worth. That kind of vision seems incredibly valuable, and while I’d love to say I do it all the time, I don’t. Sometimes I need a reminder. And when I do, I think of Delenn and the world in which she walks.


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