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  • Writer's pictureStephen

The Us vs Them Lens

I was recently listening to one of my favorite bands, U2, and one of my favorite songs came on - Invisible.  Here is a link to a youtube recording of them doing an acoustic version in Dublin last year.

The chorus of the song says:

I'm more than you know

I'm more than you see here

I'm more than you let me be

I'm more than you know

A body in a soul

You don't see me but you will

I am not invisible

I am here

Then, at the end of the song they continue to sing this phrase:

There is no them

There's only us

I have also been listening to several conversations during the past few weeks about various situations that seem to have division at their very core (politics, employees and management, Middle East, etc.).  All of those conversations and this song are swirling around in my mind and heart, illustrating a fundamental truth that I think is important for us to name: Our tendency is to view the world through an Us vs Them Lens, but the only way we can actually make significant change is when we set that perspective down and realize, There is only us!

I realize this may sound a bit too over simplistic and even naive, but allow me to give a couple of examples of how we can put this into practice.


If we are looking through the Us vs Them Lens at the various relationships in our lives (work, friends, family, political parties, countries, etc.), we tend to primarily focus on the ways in which we are different and how we disagree.  You think this, I think that.  You want this, I want that. You are this, I am that. But when we can set down the Us vs Them Lens, even for a few moments, we can begin to see the places in which we have commonality and shared experience.  For example: You want Chipotle, I want McDonalds. Hmm. Isn't it interesting that we are both hungry.  Or to take it to a larger scale: You want this person elected president, I want this other person elected president.  Hmm. Isn't it interesting that we both want what we think is best for our country and world.  By setting down the Us vs Them Lens we can begin to find a common ground that allows us to have a different starting place than just our differences.


This obviously leads to the second critical component in letting go of the Us vs Them Lens - control. I can ONLY take control of MY lens. I can't make you set down your lens. Accordingly, I have to make a decision for myself whether I am going to keep looking through that lens or not, regardless of what you may decide to do with your lens. And let's be honest, when the other party involved in this relationship is continuing to look through that lens, it makes it very tempting to justify my choice to pick up the Us vs Them Lens because that's what they are doing! But just because they are using that lens doesn't mean I have to use it too. If we are ever going to find breakthrough and change, someone needs to put down the lens first. And since I can only be in control of myself, I get to decide whether or not I am going to use it, or set it down.

I realize you may think I am still being overly simplistic and naive here. However, there has to be a starting point somewhere. Even though this one small choice may only be the starting point, and there are still lots of very difficult conversations that need to happen for systemic change to occur, I would much rather be a part of helping us get to the starting line than just being stuck in these cycles of going nowhere. 

Where are you tempted to use the Us vs Them Lens in your life?  What would it look like if you worked to take control and set that lens down for yourself? How would you need to change your perspective toward the other person or the situation in general in order to let go of that lens? How could you be a part of moving us toward a new starting point?

Here's to laying down The Us vs Them Lens this week!

Be Well,


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