One of the things I’ve found to be the most interesting as we’ve journeyed through COVID-19 is the separation that this pandemic has created. First, we judged people based on their decision to wear a mask, or not wear one. Then, we judged them based on their stance on social distancing. Now we’re making judgments based on their eagerness to sit in a restaurant or attend a church service. 

You’re either on one side or the other – and if you’re not on my side, you’re wrong. 

I’ve seen this in play as local businesses, restaurants, and boutiques are reopening. On one side, there’s the group that says open up wide. Let anyone in who’s confident enough to show up and screw everyone else – they can stay home. On the other side, there’s the group that paints businesses reopening like they’re out to execute people in their communities. How could they put their neighbors at that kind of risk?

Again… if you’re not on my side, you’re wrong. 

I’ve experienced this at a personal level as we’re exploring the best way to open a family retail shop owned by my mother. She’s eighty and a hustler who loves to work, but there are so many things to consider as we look to reopening. We need to protect her and her employees – we need to keep them safe first, as well as our customers. On the flip-side, as a small business, she can only stay closed for so long before this temporary closure takes on permanent consequences. Reopening is the only way to survive. 

Between my two brothers and me, we’re working together to make the best decisions we can. But, with three of us at the table and my mom in the middle, there are strong opinions to navigate. We don’t all agree, and we each show up looking at the world through a different lens. We’ve had to be very careful not to judge – to listen first rather than respond quickly. Full transparency, it’s been challenging. We’ve had to be very intentional about keeping our conversations respectful and non-judgemental. Sometimes, we fail miserably.

“If you’re not on my side, you’re wrong.”

That stance is deadly. It shuts down conversation, makes people go quiet, and kills relationships. It squashes any chance of collaboration, and it shuts the door on any opportunity for resolution. 

The truth is this – that gap in the middle of my preference and yours should include some grace. It should consist of some conversations and time spent listening, where we try to step into each other’s shoes to hear and understand where we’re coming from. That gap requires us to stretch our thinking, not to the point where we change our values or set them aside, but to the point where we can hear the other person and understand their values as well. We don’t have to agree, but until we can hear, we all fail. 

“If you’re not on my side, you’re wrong.”

So long as that’s our go-to, we all lose. There’s no working together, no collaboration, and no discovering new solutions when that’s our platform. Apply this to COVID-19, to the current racial divide, to the way we run our businesses, and to how we interact together in our homes… Until we step out and start listening with the intent to truly hear one another, we will never accomplish any of the things that could make us great.

The Takeaway

Diversity in our thinking is a strength. Judgment is a weakness. Listening to understand is a must.

A quick reality check… we’re all on this together, and together is the only way we’re going to move forward as we step through COVID-19, racial inequality, or anything of the things that really matter. Depth in our lives requires the help of others – of people different than us. None of us can accomplish the important things in our lives alone, and diversity in our backgrounds and thoughts is the ingredient we need to succeed.

Subscribe here and we’ll do this together…

– John