We are living in a time that has produced many followers. We are all influenced on a daily basis by powerful social media and other news and information sources, in addition to the people around us. This can trigger many different reactions, ranging from wonderful and progressive to dangerous and possibly harmful to yourself and others. Questions that arise may be straightforward: what are the consequences of these actions? Or they may run deeper: do these actions potentially cross lines with your core values?
All of us have been raised with some sort of values, be they religious or social. Standing up for them sometimes puts you in a lonely place, making it that much harder to hold your head up and look your detractors in the eye. But this comes with the territory of being individuals with opinions and convictions. Throughout history, individuals have been persecuted or even killed on those grounds. There are clear lines in the sand that are easy to distinguish as right and wrong. There are also blurred lines that come down to what is right being an individual choice.
Daily bombardment from all sides of the opinion spectrum is an increasingly divisive reality. I remember the days when people could sit down and discuss politics or religion, and openly make points reflecting their values. At the end of the conversations they could walk away and not be bashed for their beliefs. But now, the anonymity of social media emboldens people to demean and attack those with different opinions. Clear debate on the issues heats to a boiling point, with no hope of a productive outcome.
Be assured, changing someone else is difficult, if not impossible. If you think attacking people with opposing views will change their mind, think again! Digging in is generally the reaction to attacks.
Many of us have educational backgrounds with critical thinking skills at the core. We learned to debate and substantiate our positions with compelling arguments and relevant evidence. A debate is designed to persuade, but it is also designed to demonstrate the reasoning behind your stance while standing your ground.
Sticking with what you know is right, while resisting the pokes and pressure from your opponents is when “knowing your north” on a moral compass is wildly important. To weaken and give in has significant consequences. It can undermine your future interactions and wear your guts.
Each of us forges our own path, guided by our values, as.we move through life bombarded with both positive and negative influences. If you are going about living your life and not harming others, it should be of concern to others.
That is not to say you should turn a blind eye to persistent issues that are causing problems and damage. If you know something is wrong, do you make excuses or do you dive in and try your best to turn things around? If you witness a crime — be it social, environmental or physical do you address it or do you brush it under a rug and hope no one sees it? If you are aware of dangerous or criminal wrongdoing, and fail to act, are you culpable morally? I would say yes. Upholding right against wrong may not be popular. But do you care? Popularity is a highschool badge.
Coming together to address and debate issues is the proper way to reach resolution. Laying out the evidence is important. Sitting on the sidelines while condemning others who are championing what they deem to be right is counterproductive. Labelling those people as complainers and divisive is, in itself, divisive. The burning issues become obscured while flaming on with intensity. The perpetrators continue acting with impunity and without consequences for their harmful actions.
It’s lonely at the top. Being a leader creates a duty to take stances that are often not popular. Of course leadership is necessary because there are so many followers. Followers, choose leaders who define you. Remember, you must live with the consequence of your actions or lack thereof.
A true leader also knows how and when to see another point and adopt that view. The true power of a leader comes from knowing when to admit a mistake rather than calling it by different names and brushing aside. Become a leader. followers are always at the back of the pack.
Leader or enabler — what are you?