Oct 202014 3 Responses

The Most Powerful Divide in All of Life

A researcher looking at the nature of political bias did a study. He divided a group of Republicans and Democrats into mixed groups and then asked them a series of questions. Each question was about the current state of the economy, healthcare, and other issues which relate to politics. To one group, each question was asked without reference to political leadership. The question was “In the last few years do you believe the economy has improved or declined?” But to the second group, every question was asked in reference to political leadership. “Since (current President or current Governor) took office, has the economy improved or declined?” (See: A Forgotten Sign of Adulthood)

In theory, the questions were identical questions. But the results were dramatically different. When asked questions in reference of time, everyone answered about the same. However, when asked in reference to current political leadership, each person’s answer could be directly linked to their political affiliation. If their political party was in power, those responding thought things had improved. If their political opponents were in power, those responding thought things had declined. (See: Jesus Isn’t As Conservative or Liberal as You Think He Is)

The most powerful division in all of life is “us vs. them.”

Nothing influences our behavior, understanding, and thoughts as much as this divide.

And that is good.

This division is what causes us to stand against evil, move from apathy to action, and do what needs to be done.

But it’s also bad. (See: Learning to Take a Punch)

This division can be created even when it’s unnecessary. It can blind us to truth, cause us to believe lies, and result in repulsive behavior.

For these reasons, a leader must be very cognizant of the “us vs. them divide” and must respond to it in two ways.

At times, a leader will need to exploit the divide.

Is your company struggling? Is your team drifting? Are those you are leading apathetic? They need someone to fight. They need an opponent. A good leader has the ability to identify worthy opponents, ideas worth defeating, goals worth attacking, in order to rile up his followers. Unless a leader can point to an opponent, he probably cannot lead.

Opponents create the “why” for a group. If we don’t act, “they” will. And what “they” will do is bad, evil, corrupt, or negative to us and others. (See: What Should a Leader Care About?)

By creating the divide, leaders can build unity within their team, convince each individual to do their part, and cause a team to look toward the big picture of winning.

Coaches create an “us vs. them” mentality in the locker room. Most often the “them” is the other team, but at other times the “them” is the other team and everyone else. It’s “us vs. the world” they will say.

Business leaders create an “us vs. them” mentality in the boardroom. Maybe the “them” is a rival company or it is those trying to hold customers back.

Non-profit leaders and church leaders create an “us vs. them” mentality with volunteers. Without a person’s dedicated service evil might triumph over good or victims might suffer at the hands of perpetrators.

Whatever group you are leading, properly identifying one’s opponent and creating an “us vs. them” mentality is necessary for good action.

Yet there are other times a leader will need to expose the divide.

While the divide is a powerful tool to create unity, it can also destroy unity when not properly harnessed. The “us vs. them” concept is such a part of human nature, we will create the divide even when it doesn’t need to exist. Subconsciously, we will make friends into enemies and teammates into opponents. (See: You Control What Matters Most)

This can greatly hinder a mission. How many times have we seen teams fighting among themselves? How often do spouses stop fighting with one another and start fighting against one another?

When the “us vs. them” divide isn’t exposed, given attention, and mended, humanity will naturally divide into unhealthy divisions which will destroy any chance of accomplishing anything important.

Part of leadership is calling would-be opponents into useful partnerships. It’s showing people the common ground which exists and drawing attention to how both can win if they would work together. (See: Marry a Partner, Not a Child)

Marriages, families, teams, companies, organizations, and communities desperately need leaders who can rightly expose improper divides and reunite broken relationships.

One of the key roles as a leader is understanding the “us vs. them” divide and knowing when to exploit it and when to expose it. Few things will unify your team as fast as a proper opponent. Few things will destroy unity as fast as an internal divide.

3 Responses to The Most Powerful Divide in All of Life
  1. Inez Aldridge Reply

    Very powerful and thought provoking. Us vs them can swing both ways. It seems like maybe we should unite with a common goal/mission and come together as “We” instead of a political party. I totally agree that there is a time to exploit and a time to expose. Thanks for the post. I have been experiencing a Christianity crisis for the past few years, but pastors like you and a few other pastor friends make a difference because they “keep it real.”

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thanks Inez. If I can ever help with faith questions, just let me know.

  2. […] As an American, I support this sentiment. The evil acts carried out against Americans and people of ... kevinathompson.com/proof-faith-patriotism-sometimes-odds

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