Leadership and the Human Condition: An Unlikely Source of Insight on a Holy Day

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What a strange place to find meaning on Ash Wednesday.

Today started the way most workdays do – taking in some insights from a vocational journal or book.  But on this day (Ash Wednesday) I was surprised when my vocational reading became holy for me.  Let me explain.

In the most recent issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), writer Chris Green offers an opening assessment on the challenge around the topic of Gun violence in our society.  The bulk of the article centers around insights derived from the input KLC received around a survey done last year on the topic.  The goal was not to choose a side or fix the issue.  Instead, Green invited us to be awake to the “Barriers” that keep us from making progress – any progress.

As I neared the end of the article I was struck with his choice of words and how they resonated with me – in particular on this day — Ash Wednesday.  Although I’m relatively sure he didn’t intend for his writing to be seen as devotional or spiritual…well…read it for yourself.

All too often, it’s easier to expect other people to behave better than we’re willing to act ourselves.

We want others to be fair, trustworthy, unbiased and objective.  But it’s human nature to see the confirmation of what we already believe in trying to analyze the factual basis of a story, poll or research paper.  We spot others’ blind spots and fallibility far easier than we do our own.

The flaws that keep humans from being able to reason well shouldn’t stop people from entering into vigorous discussion.  But they are the reason to enter each interaction with humility and a willingness to extend grace.  So much of the dialogue that takes place in society on social media and elsewhere these days isn’t dialogue at all.  It’s score settling.  It’s a world of owning, getting owned and owning one’s self.  But how do you know if you’re learning anything?  How do you know if you’re gaining knowledge that will help you make the world of possibilities you see in your mind edge closer to reality?  

The world of human interaction is a messy place.  We should allow ourselves and others to be wrong, to make mistakes and to change our minds.  We should be forgiving when other people stumble or anger us.  Ask them to be forgiving of our own shortcomings, and own shoddy thinking or contradictory ideas.  Because the truth is:  We all mess up a bunch of the time.*



*Chris Green, The Journal, Winter 2019, p. 11