America’s troubadour, James Taylor, sings, “shower the ones you love with love.”
In a world punctuated by war and strife, driven and fueled by the wanton passions of greed, conquest, and self-adulation, we can find healing only in the balm of love, sweet love. As Burt Bacharach wrote, “It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
The opposite of love
Fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. Hate is a by-product of fear.
Fear focuses on loss, and no one wants to lose anything. Ideologies that scare followers into a state of protectionism usually engage others as adversaries who threaten to steal away valuable resources or liberties. Such adversaries are to be identified, separated out, and kept at a safe distance, if not eliminated altogether. They are to be hated.
Hate shows itself in vilification (it’s their fault, they caused this, they are the enemy), denigration (they are losers, disgusting, unworthy), and, aggression (we must take back what is ours, and eye-for-an-eye, get them before they get us, they deserve to be punished). And on it goes.
Leaders who feast on your fear subjugate you to their power, because they convince you that only they can save you. They tell you not to go out into the world, not to befriend or trust those who are different from you, not to listen to those politically correct, feckless, kumbaya losers. Who needs hope when you’ve got more muscle?
Tyrants know the only way they stay in power is to keep groups of people fighting each other. All that’s driving the rage are the ambitions of a few power hungry individuals convincing the populace that they need to be afraid of the other guy who is out to get them. It’s my opinion that 95% of the world’s problems are caused by 0.0001% of the world’s population.
These fear mongers scoff at love, because to them it’s weak. And they know it’s the only thing that can bring them down.
The power of love is that it sees every person as an individual with hopes, and dreams, and passion–just like you. Love regards each and every life as equally valuable without exception. When you regard every life as equally valuable and precious as yours, it makes one wonder why all the fighting? How do we just stop it?
When you reduce life to the number one wish, it’s that we all want someone to love, and to be loved in return. When you have that one thing, your life has meaning. That’s all it really takes.
When we all reach out in love to those within our sphere of influence, we can conquer the world with hugs and smiles. Love conquers fear. With nothing to fear, there’s no reason to fight.
According the theory of six degrees of separation, it’s entirely possible to save the world by reaching out to those closest to us. See what I mean from this YouTube video on the Veritasium channel.
Thank you, James, for reminding us that love is powerful and healing and is what we need now more than ever. As you sing:
show them the way you feel.
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.
I want that kind of love to come by here
so we all can be more
P.S. James Taylor is a 2016 recipient of the 36th Kennedy Center Honors for his contributions to the arts.
The French philosopher Rene Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am.” I have a slightly different take on that.
I exist because I can experience my life. It’s visceral before it’s intellectual. My body speaks to me from the inside out before I reason anything about myself.
I feel joy, pain, happiness, disappointment, anxiety, relief, anger, or love.
I don’t have to know anything to feel everything.
Eventually, I learn what to call those feelings so I can talk about them or seek to ruminate about them to interpret what they mean to me.
How I think about those feelings is what they mean to me. I think; therefore, it is as I interpret it.
In that duality I become a complete self: emotional and intellectual.
When you can get in touch with your complete self
You will be more
Perspective is your physical relationship to information. You cannot have multiple perspectives by sitting in the comfort of your office, or your home, or in the company of your closest friends and ruminating about the world out there. You must go out there and get in the middle of the action.
Perspective is vantage point
The vantage point from which you experience a situation is your perspective. If you are a new employee in a large company, you cannot have the same vantage point as the CEO or even your immediate supervisor because you are not in their position.
The converse also is true. Just because you were once a new employee does not mean you fully understand what it’s like to be a new employee now. Your experience once upon a time is not exactly the same as that experience today.
Perspectives are experienced
You cannot have the perspective of what it’s like to be a person of color living in a white dominated society if you are not a person of color, and vice versa.
You cannot understand the terror of being told you have cancer unless you have experienced that conversation.
If you are financially secure, you cannot understand the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing you have a mortgage or a rent to pay and you have just lost your job and have no savings.
You cannot understand the world of affluence and high society if you do not have the wealth that gives you access to it.
You cannot understand what it’s like to be me because you are not me. And vice versa.
You don’t understand
A friend told me, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher these days.” They were right. I had never experienced it, so I became a substitute teacher to get a different perspective. It wasn’t the same as, but it helped.
The point is, you cannot have a perspective that you have not experienced. So before you say, “I understand what it’s like,” stop and consider how your experiences compare.
Sympathy is lip service; empathy is a shared experience.
Get up close and personal
I cannot be a person of color, but I can befriend people of color and hang out with them in their places. I can become friends with their friends and try to understand as closely as possible their circumstances.
The television series Undercover Boss showed the mismatch of perspectives and mutual understanding by placing the boss in the employee’s daily environment. The results were amusing and eye opening.
A CEO client once told me how he stayed close to his employees by walking through his plant every day. The problem was, he didn’t spend any time with any one person. Consequently, his employees perceived him as too busy to stop and understand what was going on. I wonder if it would have been more effective to spend an hour a day in one work area interacting more personally with the workers who spent full-time there? And what if he brought one employee a week to shadow him for a couple of days as CEO? Perhaps they would take a different story back to their co-workers from the experience.
I’m not high on critics, because most critics sit in judgement of things they have not done themselves.
I recommend opening yourself to as many experiences as possible. Expand the borders of your comfort world by experiencing, as much as you can, the world in which others live every day.
Enlarge you perspective, and you will be more
People are real. Flesh and blood. Living, spiritual beings. We are not abstractions.
Human beings are not to be reduced to statistics, ID numbers, socio-economic classes, races, ethnicities, poll numbers, or any other demographic so identified to aid in sorting, classifying, categorizing, counting, or analyzing. Doing so dehumanizes them.
Love is the answer
We’ve all heard to love your neighbor as yourself. Why is that such a good idea? Because the only reality you know is within yourself. Everything else is a perception of reality. So, it’s relatively easy to think of others as not you–an abstraction.
But they are as real as you are.
Everything that you feel, and love, and fear, and long to be; everything that is real to you in the living of your life is the same that every other human experiences.
The ability to love ourselves and to love others as ourselves is the foundation of human interaction. Otherwise, there is you and only you, and everyone else is merely an object to be exploited for your own purposes.
Non-love produces divisions, strife, hate, bigotry, murder, thievery, manipulation, lying, all manner of actions against the well-being of others. Why? Because objectifying others is the direct result of not being empathetic or compassionate.
Love makes empathy and compassion possible
Empathy is your ability to personally identify with the feelings of others as if you were experiencing it for yourself.
Compassion is the ability to identify with the sufferings and misfortunes of others which motivates you to go out of your way to help.
Both empathy and compassion arise from loving yourself and loving your neighbor as yourself. Hence, the ability to feel their pain, their joy, their hopes, and their fears as if they were your own. That’s when everyone becomes real to you, because they are you.
It is spiritually impossible for anyone to love their neighbor as themselves and to belittle, besmirch, denigrate, humiliate, or to inflict harm in any way upon them at the same time. The two actions are mutually exclusive.
The true spirit of leading begins with loving others as you love yourself. Start there.
When every human being is that real to you,
you will be
What happens when a personal belief meets an irrefutable fact? The belief wins every time–facts be damned.
Human nature is such that we believe what we want to believe, and we don’t believe anything we don’t want to believe regardless of the verifiable facts. That’s the entire premise of an ideology, which is a set of shared beliefs that any group uses to explain its existence and way of life.
I am as I believe
What you believe is central to your identity. So if someone presents you a verifiable, irrefutable fact that negates a core principle of your belief system (who you believe yourself to be), you will simply say, “I don’t believe it,” and that’s that.
And if someone can distill that belief into a few words for you, so much the better. Try these on:
- America is the greatest nation on earth.
- The system is rigged.
- Democracy is the best form of government.
- Live fast, love hard, die young. (Oops, sorry. That is a country song, but a belief system none the less.)
- The white race is superior to all others.
- Black lives matter.
- All men are created equal.
- Might makes right.
- It’s every man for himself.
- We’re all in this together.
- Get a good education, work hard, and you’ll be successful.
- You can become anything in life you want.
- Winning is the only thing that counts.
- There is only one true God.
- God is dead.
You get the point.
A true believer, or a believer in truth?
A true believer accepts the party line no matter what. Every bit of information is cast in light of the underlying beliefs. All information contrary to the core belief must be explained and reexplained and reconfigured until it fits the belief.
On the other hand, a believer in truth will seek out information, verify it, consider that information in context of the situation in which it is presented and then arrive at a belief based on it. A believer in truth has no qualms about saying they used to believe one thing, and now they believe something different because they learned new facts.
I would rather be liberated by facts than enslaved by my beliefs. The most liberating phrase I know is, “I might have been wrong about that.” So, why is that not as easy as it sounds?
Psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain, “The brain is designed with blind spots, optical and psychological, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any,” (Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me, 2007).
It’s not that we can’t see the truth, it’s that we won’t see the truth.
Simply put, we lie to ourselves and believe we are being truthful at the same time. Why? It makes us feel good about ourselves–that we are right.
The paradox of the lie
We want to believe the lie because we believe we will benefit from it, even though it’s a lie.
Because we define ourselves by our beliefs and values, we flock with those most like us. We confirm our beliefs to each other. Then, we tell each other how good we all are and that those not like us are not as good as we are. Us versus them.
Yeah, we would rather believe the lie because we like the lie better than the truth.
The apostle Paul had it right when he warned Timothy, his younger protege, to be diligent about teaching, “sound doctrine.” He wrote that the time would come when people, “will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear,” to suit their own desires (2 Timothy 4:3).
The case for faith
Where does this lead us?
For me, it leads to fact checking and allowing the facts to shape my beliefs. I also must admit that there are some things that are not explained by the empirical facts that I know or have available to me. Therefore, I do accept some things on faith, my belief through personal experience that some things are true, but I don’t know why exactly.
And I will keep that faith, until I have facts that would compel me to believe otherwise. See how that works?
I do believe in the fundamental goodness of people, that we sincerely want to do the right thing as we believe it to be.
I also believe there are many
who believe in the truth and seek it relentlessly.
I’ve decided to devote my time and effort primarily to helping others become more effective thinkers. When we don’t think critically and creatively for ourselves, we are at the mercy of those who can benefit from intentionally misleading us.
Here is an earlier podcast that speaks to the power of A-Ha. [podcast: The power of A-Ha]
This earlier podcast makes the case for INPowering leaders also being advocates of creative thinking and self-discovery.
Listen and seek to apply this thought provoking podcast.
Stretch yourself to be more
Partisanship is like handling fire. It can provide illumination or destruction depending on how it is managed. Right now, in America, it’s blazing out of control and threatening to consume our democracy.
But there is an escape
A fire needs three ingredients: fuel, oxygen, and heat. Eliminate any one of these, and the fire goes out. We control fires by regulating the balance of these three ingredients.
A partisan takes a side. Nothing inherently wrong with that. We need people to represent different points of view to help us balance our own thinking and to help us find solutions to difficult problems. That’s illuminating.
When out of control, the heat of passion ignites the fuel of content (words and positions) in an oxygen rich environment of “us versus them– If you aren’t with us, you’re against us–winning is all that matters.” That’s destructive.
A leader is a firefighter
Such a leader can manage the fire, but not if they are adding to the fuel or fanning the flames.
Unfortunately, our political discourse right now is fueled by the rhetoric of extremism couched in half-truths and outright lies, fueled by the passion of contempt and hatred toward the opposition, in an environment where partisans are lined up shouting, “Burn, baby, burn,” at each other.
It’s time to isolate the political pyromaniacs and deprive them of the heat and oxygen they need to destroy everything in their path.
We need INPowering leaders who can cool the passions, moderate the message from inflammatory diatribes to reasoned discourse, and regulate the environment by creating breathing space for conversation and dialogue instead of screaming across partisan divides.
These partisan movements run on the fuel of “B.S.” We must hold all sides, even our own, accountable for the truth in context of their message. If you must lie and twist the facts to make your point, then you don’t have a point.
We must dig a fire line around our passions so they don’t race out of control, igniting what would otherwise not be in jeopardy.
We must create an environment where opposing points of view can be discussed with cool heads and compassionate hearts.
True leadership rises above partisanship. It illuminates.
Be that kind of leader, if you desire to be