Renewing Society’s Vows

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. That space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

– Victor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor, Author, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Renewing our Vows

On Tuesday July 5, I returned from a much needed sabbatical that was both physically
rejuvenating and spiritually transformative. I rode my bike back to work and braced myself for a
monster update from colleagues who had been expertly holding down the fort in my absence.
“So… anything big happen while I was gone?” I said sarcastically.

Yeah, a few big things have happened. Roe v. Wade was overturned, tragic mass and police
shootings occurred, and jaw-dropping congressional hearings on the January 6 insurrection
consumed the airwaves. Oh, and remember COVID? Yeah, that’s still happening too. Regardless
of where you are in your politics, we’re all experiencing massive disruption and witnessing
heart-wrenching tragedy right now. In desperation and anger, we start pointing fingers and
writing checks. Blame the culprit and invest in the “resistance.” After all, I am right and they are
wrong. (God it’s so much easier to be right all the time.)

Question: Does anyone else feel like we’re getting tricked into hating each other? As if there is
a team of minions secretly working to sow division among Americans, creating sides and
accelerating the demise of our democracy? I often wonder if it’s possible to work towards the
change we believe in while simultaneously, radically loving our way through this.

In 2018, I was planning an ALF retreat to feature honored guest Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of
Mahatma Gandhi. After riffing on themes and goals for our gathering, I said out loud, “We need
to renew our vows to each other.”

Citizen University CEO Eric Liu does just this. He was so moved by watching a naturalization
ceremony that he began to offer opportunities for attendees of his civic sermons to renew their
“vows” to country and to each other. They include a promise to show up for others, to help
govern our community, and cherish liberty as a responsibility.

Can we approach our coexistence like a family that disagrees, wrestles over issues, but in the
end – we share a country and a constitution – so we commit to a floor of grace and forgiveness?
This does not mean we stop fighting for what we believe in and for a just society. And it sure as
hell doesn’t mean we deny our history or stay in an abusive relationship (aka, with those who
harbor immovable feelings of hate). To the contrary – when we truly love each other, we own
our history and are obligated to practice tough love by speaking truth to power. We just don’t
destroy each other in the process.

Recently ALF facilitated a group of civil rights activists and police leaders from Texas,
Washington, North Carolina and Silicon Valley to engage in a conversation about public safety.

While their perspectives and politics differed, they shared a common goal. Waco Chief Sheryl
Victorian said, “We always hear ‘it’s hard to hate up close.’ I want to change that and say it’s
easier to love and accept each other if we’re up close, and learning about one another.” Their
example of generous listening, authentic sharing and commitment to creating healthier
communities gives me hope. Can you imagine if each of us had the courage to prioritize the
greater “we” over “me?”

The cynical part of me says, we can’t win. No matter what we say or do. But here’s the thing –
winning isn’t the end game. Love is.

Opinion provided by Silicon Valley Ethics Roundtable. Contributing Author: Suzanne St. John-
Crane, CEO, American Leadership Forum.

SVER NOTE: The opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the Silicon Valley Ethics Roundtable. Articles are posted for comment and discussion.

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