A Better Definition of Enemy

Let's play connect the dots from some resources you might not think would connect. First, the 28 May - 3 June 2016 edition of the Economist (p.26), where flip-flop statements were made by Republican leaders once Donald Trump appeared to win the party nomination for the presidential campaign. Rand Paul's was a particular stand out, saying on The Nightly Show on 25 January:

"Donald Trump is a delusional, narcissist, and an orange-faced windbag."

And then, in May, on Breithart.com:

"...I took a pledge when I ran for president to not run as an independent candidate and to support the Republican nominee. I stand by that pledge."

Still thinking about what it takes from people to operate like this within their own party, let alone between political parties, I came across this Daniel Taylor's Book In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands. It is a book given to me recently by a friend who knows of my upcoming visit to Ireland this fall. Here is part of one of Mr. Taylor's reflections on pilgrimage, and it oh so relates:

"Pilgrimage holds out the possibility that when the last word is spoken about the human experience, it is a benevolent word. Absence, void, and disintegration are real, but not defining. Every good thing is subject to debasement and rupture, but rupture is the offense against the underlying design, not itself the essential nature of things....

....It is a chosen view of life....Having declared this my choice, I am obligated to certain actions in life. I believe myself obligated, for instance, to have fewer enemies....

The right demonizes the left, the left demonizes the right. Progressives are the new Puritans, seeing evil in every nook and cranny of society....Traditionalists see evil only in things that threaten the status quo. And each sees evil most clearly in the other. Leaders are defined now by their ability to frighten and enrage their followers, and nothing does that so well as a vivid and threatening enemy. And all these people want to recruit me to their side, with the ominous warning that if I am not with them, I am against them." (pp.154,155)

Taylor is pointing to a different way of thinking about what makes for an enemy. Before saying more about it, we have one more stop to make, a visit to Havel, a Life, the psychological biography about Vaclav Havel written by Michael Zantovsky, his longtime press secretary, a trained Psychologist himself.  Since I'm reading the Kindle version of the book, I can't assign a page number for the following quote:

"Havel neither had nor would he ever develop a concept of the Enemy. His decades-long critique of the Communist regime always strove towards the form of a dialogue, in which he went out of his way to try to understand rather than to demonize the motives of the other side and, if at all possible, always to extend to them the benefit of the doubt."

Havel goes down in history as one of the all time greats at affecting change and helping people to flourish --- something our current slate of candidates are not likely to achieve. He stands in there with other great names we might point to -- King, Gandhi, even Jesus - particularly in the definition of and treatment of the enemy department.

Can we business leaders consider choosing the best of these leadership examples, emulating them, re-defining what our enemy is, our real competition, and then acting accordingly? Can we reject shrill words and bombastic shouting, and pick up humble, loving speech, even at our own expense?

Having connected these dots among these three sources, I'm struck yet again that our real enemy is that which destroys souls, diminishes life, harms the body, ravages the environment, and takes away from the life our children and the children of others'.  Our real enemy is not the person who offers the same service or product I do. The real enemy is that which leads people to think that their greatest triumph is to deprive someone of their life, or perhaps worse, to deliberately cause their suffering.

What if that is the battle we take up as we lead our organizations, form our teams, prepare a new round of disruptive technology or product lines, determine employee benefits, consider what will be done with profits, and as we leave our estates behind.

May the God who destroys enmity, the Son who calls us friends, and the Spirit that equips us for works of service, bring us all wisdom as we live into our role as Stewards of the companies we serve, and fight the real battle against real rather than imagined enemies.