There are many things I admire about horses and wish most humans could do more of, but how they define right and wrong is not one of them. Horse dynamics, particularly herd dynamics, is all about pecking order. The alpha horse determines for the rest of the herd what is right and wrong. The alpha decides who eats, who drinks, where they walk, who stands next to whom. Right and wrong is completely defined by one beings worldview. Sometimes the alpha will allow another horse to co-lead with them, but even that decision is up the discretion of the alpha and can be revoked at any time. When another horse disagrees with the community standards the only way to have a say is to challenge the alpha for that position or to try hard enough that the alpha changes their opinion, but at the end of the day whoever is alpha is calling the shots. It is an arrangement that stresses me out greatly. Jasmine is currently the co-alpha of her new herd and I feel like the parent who every day gets a bad report on their child. My child is in my mind the bully. She won’t let those below her eat or drink, she runs them off. And as a horseman I know this is all normal and there is little we can do about it, but as a human this goes against everything I believe in. It was just as much a struggle for me when Jas allowed herself in her last herd to give up being the alpha (I swear with that group she just decided it wasn’t worth the stupidity level of being their boss). But then I had to worry about who was hurting her, was she getting enough to eat.
This is a time of year where the concept of right and wrong and who defines it is always on my mind. Being Jewish this is a time of year where differences are very obvious to me. Those that believe that Christmas should be the right holiday and want public displays and Christmas parties at public venues want to have the alpha spot in the pecking order. We all battle over what is the appropriate holiday greeting is (I’m a fan of Happy Holidays because I think it is more respectful of everyone). I always find myself questioning why any of us think our religion is more right than anyone else’s. Why we can’t just get to a place where we all see the world as “this is right for me but I have no reason to choose right for anyone else”.
That question is even stronger on my mind this year because of the recent election and conversations I have had based on the outcome. There are people in my life who strongly believe the outcome was wrong. They are angry, bitter, sad because the country didn’t see things their way. The same is going on on college campuses, schools and many other places. And it is the first time I remember hearing it stated so blatantly that the way the election went was wrong. I remember in the past hearing people weren’t happy with the outcome, but I have never heard such strong judgement on those who voted differently. And I have to admit I don’t get it. I don’t understand the notion that America can be held to anyone’s single view, that isn’t how our herd works. It isn’t how it should work either. Yet for some reason we have moved more and more to that place on everything. Whether you discuss elections, religion, abortion, marriage rights, home schooling or a million other topics, the conversation has become more judgmental in the last decade. We have moved from being able to disagree to wanting to force our will on others and that scares me.
I was in a serious change management meeting last week. The goal was to revisit many core policies of a company that has recently changed leadership and is re-examining itself for the first time in about 15 years. In that time the size of the firm, the primary services provided, the tenure of employees and clients has all changed. The model needs to be very different for the future to be successful. Understandably there were some very passionate, and momentarily heated, discussions as topics that mattered to each participant were broached. I was struck by one very specific moment however. A change in documentation was being discussed and one participant was campaigning strongly against the change and he described something as the right way to do that. The whole room reflexively paused at once, although I may have been the only one to notice it because I spent the duration of the meeting watching change issues. The speaker was then called out by another participant and reminded that he doesn’t get to define right for everyone. That he gets his opinion but not the authority to determine right for the rest of the company. I felt like it was a changing point in that topic’s conversation. I watched the speaker process his own behavior for a moment and begin to open up to other possibilities on the topic.
It made me think about the following question. How often does our view that we are right hold us back from change and growth? Can the question “Why don’t I like change?” really be replaced with “Why am I not willing to consider that my right might not be the best right for everyone?”? And is the extension of that recognizing that when only one answer can exist for a group (versus a situation where we can all do it our preferred while) while we might not like a certain change is holding on to our right, for our own sake, harming other people in the long run?
I have always considered myself pro-choice on most topics, a view I now know as libertarian. I may not agree with someone else’s choice and would not do it the same way as them, but I would fight for their right to choose for themselves. I definitely don’t think my way works for everyone or that it even should. But I think what I learned this week is when that isn’t an option, in a situation where only one collective outcome is possible, I have room to grow. I know who I want to be and believe I should be, but I am not always sure I am enough that person. I think I found one of my change resolutions for 2017.