The uncompromising condemnation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s words, “Our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love,” troubled me. Why is talk of caring and connection so threatening?
Looking for clues, I researched emotion, neuroscience, and change management. I kept circling back to love and its opposite, fear, which took me to Machiavelli’s words that “it was safer to be feared than loved.” He noted that fear was more reliable since it can be “maintained by dread of punishment, which never fails.”
Funny how a single word can unlock a whole new line of pondering.
He didn’t say better, just safer.
Showing love makes us vulnerable—we have to get close; fear can be elicited from a distance. Detachment doesn’t ask for an emotional investment, empathy does. Reaching out is harder than walking away.
Fear and love aren’t forever either/or choices, though. Sometimes a warm heart is what’s needed; other times a cool head. Sometimes we need the boot in the bottom, other times the warm hug. How could I let people know the trick is learning not to default to one or the other but rather to seek to understand and do what’s right for the situation?
At one point in my noodling, I wanted to wag my finger at the naysayers and tell them that leadership is both/and, that there’s a place for love, that Lynch said “effective” not “only,” and that it’s OK to disagree but there’s no need to dismiss and be ugly towards those who see things differently.
Then I discovered these lines and dropped that wagging finger:
Those who truly wish to be leaders in an age of discontent—not merely its demagogues, bullies, hecklers, and tyrants—will have to turn reject and refuse ruling through fear, and toward leading with love.
Leading through love means overcoming the ever-present temptation to abuse and belittle people, to guilt and shame them, to mock and taunt them — to force them into line.
It means creating the conditions for them to grow into following the principles that you espouse. It means not just arguing tendentiously with nor patronizingly explaining to people things that they are not ready to, equipped to, nor prepared to understand, but putting faith in people — even those who damn you — first, always, everywhere.
~Umair Haque, author and economist
Wow. Powerful stuff.
Here’s to replacing my wagging finger with grace, aiming for a reaction chain of goodness.