Watching the All Blacks defeated in the Rugby World Cup final was gutting. I screamed, clapped, and jumped up when they scored that magical mind-blowing try, only for the referee to disallow it! Fuelled by the injustice I lashed out on social media…
‘We didn’t lose to South Africa, we lost to the (add expletive) referee!’
The absurd thing is, I don’t even like rugby!
So, what got me so riled up?
How did I go from exhilarated, to confused, to murderous in the space of a few seconds?
Because I’m quite sure if I was a South Africa supporter, I’d have seen things wildly differently.
But when strong emotions take me over, it’s hard – if not impossible – to be objective.
And the crazy thing is, seeing my bias (even now) hasn’t changed my position, not one jot. I still think I’m right (about the incompetent refereeing that is)!
But herein lies a bigger problem.
While taking a side in sport and believing my side was unfairly robbed (sorry can’t quite let it go…) might seem innocuous enough, taking other kinds of sides is disastrous.
I’ve been reflecting on this and what’s currently happening in our world.
Because side-taking, when driven by different ideologies and fuelled by hatred, greed, and revenge, is what starts wars.
So why do we take sides and why are we so hell-bent on believing our side is the right side?
Well, we’re all biologically driven to want to feel part of something bigger than us, whether that’s supporting the All Blacks, being part of a family, a work team, religion, a culture, or a political party.
We crave connection and belonging.
From an evolutionary perspective, exclusion from the group meant no more you!
What started out as essential for our survival (and fires great rivalry on the sports field) also sets us up for ‘othering’, which is the root cause of all conflict.
Like me, you’ve probably been watching arguments in the media about whether Hamas or Israel are the real war criminals.
And I get it, I really do. But I find calling the atrocities war crimes, a really strange argument.
We’re sanctioning murder, so long as the right people are killing the right people.
This is insane.
Taking any human life is fundamentally morally and ethically wrong, whether it’s a child, a pregnant woman, an elderly man, or a soldier.
I’ve stopped taking sides.
That doesn’t mean I’ve lost my compassion for the people in Palestine and Gaza, it simply means my heart aches for everyone regardless of which side they’re on.
At the bottom of it is leadership failure 101 – denying that you could be the problem, and instead, rationalizing and blaming others.
It just couldn’t be me, it must be them!
War feeds on the exact same thing.
John Steinbeck sums up my thinking with this quote, “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”
Today’s global leaders will not resolve the current conflicts until they see their own biases, go beyond taking sides, and rise above who is right and who is wrong.
To do that we need enlightened leaders.
That might seem highfalutin. Isn’t enlightenment an unattainable goal for a chosen few?
No. It’s available to all of us and we have some adulting to do.
Never before has it been more crucial for leaders to step back, expose their unhelpful biases, and operate from a place of our shared humanity instead.
That’s the work I do with leaders (one leader and one leadership team at a time).
In the immortal words of John Lennon, “You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”
Enough is enough!
War that is! You can keep supporting the All Blacks…