I remember my time as a member of my high school debate team. The premise for the competitions was simple. School officials yearly choose the topic for discussion. It usually involved a current international policy. Schools submitted several two-person teams to debate the topic against other schools in sponsored tournaments. Teams were required to research both sides of the issue and be ready to argue its pros and cons in front of a tournament judge. By random selection, one team was assigned the pro position and the other team the con. The judge would determine the winner.
The ironic thing about these debates was that the facts of the issue didn’t matter much. Neither did the moral fortitude of one side over the other. Victory was determined by the team with the best line of bullshit to convince the judge. In other words, the ability to sway the judge was the only factor determining right from wrong.
High school debates have become the metaphor for our societal norms. Today people seem more concerned with proving wrong those who believe differently rather than finding the common ground. They want to live in the echo chamber of their own point of view while shunning aside different perspectives. This is at the core of the tribalism and polarization festering in the United States of modern times.
Why must we always be right?
It is easy to become enamored with the idea that we, and those who think like us, have the moral upper hand. But morality can be subjective. Sure, it is easy to distinguish evil from good, but just because someone disagrees does not mean they are wrong or evil. Personal experiences shaped an individuals world view. No life path is alike, we are all living unique lives. There are as many different perspectives as there are people on this planet. Another’s view of an issue is as legitimate as our view. We are the ones who create the criteria by which to separate, segregate and discriminate against others who are different. This is wrong and destructive thinking.
What do we do if we want the world to—like the song says—“sing in perfect harmony”?
The answer is simple, concentrate on what is within your power to change, yourself. While this may seem contradictory to the hero role of impacting the world with our presence, reality is that only a very select few have been chosen to affect the lives of thousands of people. The rest of us have ourselves and the people around us to influence.
The most common element that people who influence others—whether one or millions—is that they lead by example. Fancy slogans or a flashy personality might work in the short run, but people eventually see through the fake ones and move away from them. Leadership, whether in a family or an organization, is by established by living the life we preach.
You need not be a great orator, good looking, a great athlete, a giant of industry or a powerful politician to influence others. You don’t need great and slick arguments or insights, nor do you need to convince others you are right and they are wrong. All you need is the willingness and effort to evolve into your highest self. This is done by eradicating our fear and negative self-beliefs. It is done by replacing, fear, hatred, anger, jealousy and greed with love, generosity, courage, kindness and an unflinching acceptance of the legitimacy of others. These higher angels or our characters are the common ground that can unite all of us, and we have the capacity within us to make this change. Your higher power is waiting for you with open arms to take this path.
As you begin to heal yourself of the negative forces, you will light a candle in your soul. Although this light might seem small to you, it will be enough to allow others to see the way and follow you on this road less traveled.
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