With this post, I may end my political aspirations, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Before I make my point, in fairness, I begin with some personal disclosure.
I grew up in a white, middle-class family in Ohio, USA. Boy Scouts and baseball were my things. I was heavily influenced by my mom’s severe and persistent mental & physical illnesses. Many of my close loved ones have faced the whole gamut of mental health diagnoses over the years. Both sides of my family of origin strongly align with the Democratic Party. I’m divorced, with three amazing grown children.
I became an engineer at The Ohio State University. After a long career in manufacturing management, I now own two companies: an electronics assembly business, and a trust-building consultancy. I spent 48 years as a Catholic and currently worship our Lord Jesus in a non-denominational church.
So I’m a small business owner who is also a left-leaning, bible-believing, divorced ex-Catholic, committed to spreading the gospel, and building trust in every relationship. Just so you know. Which part of me is talking here is anybody’s guess.
Pick an Issue
Mask wearing, same-sex marriage, Black and Blue lives, gun rights, Trump vs. Biden, vaccines, whatever. Each has become a cause for salute or consternation for most folks I know. I have countless friends, relatives, and business associates on either side. I love them all.
Competing perspectives on each issue claim powerful arguments that sound perfectly reasonable to those within their camp, and scandalous to those in the other. Neither side seems willing to be influenced. Matters have grown beyond mere principles. The vibe that permeates our country and my little corner of it: “If you’re not for us, you’re against us.”
When it comes to “insert issue here,” I often feel like an imposter to my friends, mentally defending the merits of the opposite camp. Since I know and love both sets of people, it feels only just. Occasionally I probe around the edges of their stated positions looking for a little respect or at least diplomacy for the opposing view. I’m having less and less luck finding it.
Since I build trust for a living, I grow uneasy with my mental duplicity. I often advise my clients that real trust requires candor, vulnerability, and openness, and I usually do well at leading by example. Yet on the polarizing issues of the day, I feel like a snake in the grass – in both lawns.
Much as I feel alone in this, I know better. Those of us with eyes open to both sides of an issue, and the shades of grey in between, have a duty here. We’re the ones who must stand in the breach. If not us, who? If not now, when?
As an American, I appreciate, value, and defend individual freedom – regardless of my personal beliefs. Otherwise, freedom has little meaning. Others have the right to believe differently than I do, and it’s my daily responsibility to respect them.
To my left-leaning friends, please don’t waste this moment. The pursuit of “justice for all” is a worthy fight – and all means all, not just those with whom we agree. Scorn, ridicule, and condescension cannot exist where true progress and trust reside. When our methods demonize our opponents, we’ve already lost that which we claim to pursue.
To my right-leaning friends, please don’t waste this moment. The pursuit of freedom is a worthy fight which must include everyone, not just those with whom we agree. Scorn, ridicule, and condescension cannot exist where real honor and trust reside. When our methods demonize our opponents, we’ve already lost that which we claim to pursue.
Will you accept an olive branch from the other side? Respecting, even celebrating, our country that allows all our disparate voices to coexist seems like the common ground from which respect for those voices can surely thrive. Certainty of position does not grant us the license to disparage those who see things differently. Great leaders from both the left and right have taught us this.
The more we can be ourselves, without fearing judgment, the more trust we get. Can we trust those with whom we disagree? Of course! I do it every day, as they do me.
As for standing in the breach, it starts with recognizing that America needs relationships built on trust and that seeing others’ intrinsic value – regardless of their views – is the first prerequisite. Those of us who can see both sides of an issue must summon the courage to make harmony happen out there in the real world. This is our moment.
For many simple, specific things you can do to improve interpersonal trust at any time, read Bruce’s latest book, The 60-Day Building Trust Workout.