The real enemy

We often define ourselves in opposition to others. We notice that what we believe is different to what those other people believe, and we let that difference define us.

We seek to change people who think differently from us by articulating all the ways they’re wrong and silly and backwards. We start wars and form factions, and even though we may summon more people to our cause, they’re mostly the people who already believe the things you do.

That’s one way to do things, and it might give us some validation—but it’s not real change. If our goal is to make real change, we must let go of the idea that people are the enemy.

If we can let go of this idea that specific individuals or groups are our enemy, then we become free to see that it’s the limiting attitudes and biases that these people hold which we seek to change—and those things almost never change on their own.

Attitudes and biases and beliefs only change through deliberate effort from their owners. Because lasting change can only come from within, we shouldn’t make enemies of the people who hold these beliefs. Instead, we should seek to understand their worldview, show them empathy, and help them see a way to change that fits firmly in their own interests.

It’s our would-be enemies that we actually need on our side if we ever hope to make a change—because it’s these individuals that at some point must take the step on their own to replace their attitudes, biases, and beliefs with something better.

People are the solution, not the problem. They need our help, not our opposition.

P.S. I’d like to give a special shout-out to my fellow altMBA alumni Laura Lanigan, for being the one to originally make this important point so clearly with her final project of the program. Bravo, Laura.

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