I was recently listening to a wisdom teacher on a podcast who used a phrase I found very interesting which also connects back to my recent messages on Powerful Agreements and Gardens of Kindness & Compassion. They said, "It's important that we take time to reflect on some key questions in our lives. Two powerful ones are 'Who are we?' and 'Who are they?' I find that much of our maturing work in life is learning how to move whoever is in the 'They' category into the 'We' category."
That has really got me thinking deeply about a number of things.
Who are We?
Most of the time when I answer this question for myself, I tend to start with the groups who are similar to me in some way (race, religion, culture, family, etc.), and who I feel the most comfortable with in my life (my family, my political party, my religion, my cultural heritage, etc.). Truthfully, having these types of identifying markers isn't all bad. They help me better understand myself and my world.
Who are They?
When I shift my attention to this group, it often starts with everyone who isn't in the "We" group. Basically, everyone else that I don't naturally identify with in my life. Again, having characteristics that acknowledge distinctives and differences between groups isn't all bad because they can also help me better understand myself and my world.
I believe part of what this wisdom teacher was trying to illustrate is that our tendency is for the "We" group to get smaller and smaller, while "They" gets larger. It's just so easy for us to become so focused on the differences between us, that those distinctives no longer become helpful to understanding ourselves and our world better. When I am paying more attention to the distinctives that separate us and my "We" group gets too small, it can actually become like an echo-chamber that just resonates and reverberates back our same messages and understandings over and over again.
Instead, what this teacher was calling for was learning how to expand our "We" to make it larger, thereby decreasing the size of who "They" are. If I can continue to open myself up to learning more about "Them," I begin to discover that while differences still exist, there is actually more that unites us than separates us. Expanding who "We" are doesn't eliminate our distinctives, but instead celebrates the beauty of the diversity of who "We" are in the world. It's like going from watching TV in black and white to color (old school reference there!).
When was the last time you asked, "Who are We?" and "Who are They?" Which direction do you think your circles are expanding and decreasing? Is there a situation in your life right now (work, family, leadership, etc.) in which you are paying more attention to the differences between "Us" and "Them?" What would it take in that situation for you to mature in your understandings in a way that allows an expansion of who "We" are?
Here's to growing this week so we have more "We" and less "They" in our lives!
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