Are You Separating, Assimilating or Leading Change?
I recently shared a blog post about a Social Media dialog that took place with my expat neighbors and friends on the other side of the world.
That dialog crossed cultures and religions, and focused on freedom and respect and fueled a growing dream.
As that dialog has continued with my neighbor, she asked how I became so open-minded.
I don’t have a fast or easy answer to that question.
The truth is that I have cared deeply about people for almost as long as I can remember. And after a very painful lesson in first grade I’ve stood up for anyone that was not being treated fairly.
And yet in spite of deeply caring for people, I have been very close-minded and judgmental. …And can identify those behaviors from elementary school through much of my professional career.
Here’s one example:
- By the time I was in sixth grade my family had dealt with some really ugly and painful situations related to alcohol abuse.
- And all of this was happening as faith was becoming more important in our home so we were being raised in an alcohol-free zone.
At the same time:
- Several of my classmate’s families did a lot of social drinking – So a favorite pastime was to brag about opportunities to sneak into parent’s liquor cabinets.
- Older teenagers had been killed in car accidents, and spent time in alcohol treatment facilities.
So a mandatory drug and alcohol course was rolled out in our school.
I was too immature to:
- Really understand that every home would have different reasons for their values and to be ok with that.
- To clearly articulate why alcohol had become such a dirty word in our home.
- Or to discern what part of our decision was being driven by wisdom and what part of it was being driven by fear.
So when our class was required to take the course…
- I did not seek first to understand my classmates or their desire to experiment with social drinking.
- Instead I passionately spoke my family’s conviction over them.
The result was that they felt judged and not at all inclined to consider my loud and abrasive opinion. (In fact I probably had the opposite effect on them.)
In recent years, I realized that many times I’ve sat in business meetings, and even if I did not speak aloud, I emitted the same vibe as my pre-teen self… With my crossed arms, raised eyebrows and shaking head.
That realization influenced some of the thinking behind this post: Leaders: Are you a candle or a beacon?
A short while later I heard Dr. Wayne Hardy speak and was challenged by the idea that as humans we have three choices when we encounter what we don’t agree with:
- We can separate ourselves – giving us absolutely no influence on those we don’t understand or agree with.
- We can assimilate and become just like everyone else – meaning that we either have no brains or no courage to think or act on our own. And again giving us no influence because we are just like everyone else.
- Or we can listen to understand and then speak our truth with grace and love and then listen again. Opening ourselves up to the possibility of being influenced or of being an influence. (Or maybe both.)
Can you imagine what our families, our schools, our churches, our businesses, our communities and our world would look like if we would engage like that!
So here’s where I am today.
- While others see me as open-minded.
- I see myself as someone who has a history of unconsciously separating or assimilating, and someone who loves the vision and the challenge of consciously choosing another path.
So I’ve chosen to be a student on this path believing that it has the power to change our world.
Will you join me?