We like to live in a black and white world with clear delineation between what is good and what is bad. Everybody goes onto either a nice list or a naughty list. And so we draw vertical lines on our world. We put the bad people on the other side of the line and the good people we collect on our side. And we keep drawing vertical lines until those lines become fences and walls and bars.
The truth though is that the line between good and bad is a horizontal line. And it runs through the heart of every human being. Each and every one of us is at once darkness and brilliance. This is human nature and it is all part of who we are. Our beliefs and values are important for they determine which part of us we live out in our day-to-day actions.
There are people whose beliefs conflict with the beliefs of others, and whose values do not respect the values of others. There are those who have never known anything but darkness in their life and they don’t see their own light or they just don’t know how to do anything that reflects their better nature. The actions of these people typically have a detrimental effect on those whose lives they touch, either intentionally or unintentionally.
These are the people that we tend to label as the “bad” people and we put them on the other side of the vertical line. We work hard to separate and exclude them. But this disregards the true situation at hand which muddles our efforts towards improvement. We absolutely must call out actions that do not serve the well being of society and the people behind those actions need to be held accountable. But we can’t do that effectively by pushing them off to the other side of our vertical line. We must stand with them at the horizontal line that lies between our humanness and our humanity.
As leaders there is something to be said for surrounding ourselves with positive people. We need to have a healthy and supportive environment. And if we carefully choose to focus our leadership on those who are most agreeable to us it will make our journey more pleasant and will increase the likelihood that we will get where we want to go.
But then we have to ask ourselves, did I leave behind those who needed the journey the most? Did I disregard a person because they are one of “them” when in fact they are a lot like me? Did I deny someone their greatest opportunity simply because they annoy me? Did I miss out on an opportunity to live out my better nature in service to them?