By Bill Harley
A common theme in the religious scriptures of all the major world religions is the historic dispersion of the human race throughout the world; and the coming regathering of that race into one human family living in peace on the planet. This regathering is associated with the coming of age of the human race collectively. We are witnessing that regathering in the world today. Human beings from all ethnicities, cultures, and walks of life are being forced by circumstances to intermingle at an accelerating rate—both within and between nations.
This regathering generates great possibilities and complex challenges. To successfully fulfill these possibilities and wisely resolve these challenges will require enlightened decision-making capacities—in families, neighborhoods, communities, organizations, and city, state, national and international institutions—which are not yet evident. As we survey these venues of decision-making, we see the predominance of adversarial deliberation practices that generate destructive conflict, inaction on pressing problems, and decisions (when they occur) that are sub-optimal and foster new rounds of conflict. It is as though we are using adolescent decision-making tools to address adult problems and opportunities.
You know you are using immature/adolescent decision-making practices when the deliberation devolves into a swamp of false dichotomies like the following:
We can do it my way or your way—there is no in-between way.
We can live on a budget or we can be free and enjoy life.
We can have national borders that are open or borders that are closed.
We can totally control access to guns or we can make them freely available to all.
My candidate is all virtue, and your candidate is all evil.
We can use fossil fuels or we can save the environment.
You can support management or labor—make your choice.
We can have government that is small and nimble or large and bureaucratic.
When false dichotomies emerge along with the debilitating arguments that accompany them, you know the regathering of the human family is going to be mismanaged—in your home, neighborhood, city, state, nation and the world.
What would it look like to be using mature/adult decision-making practices instead? For one thing, the deliberation process would free us from a preoccupation with overly simplistic, false dichotomies; and foster collaborative exploration of the rich middle ground between them where the creative, nuanced solutions reside.
For another thing, the decision-making process would draw forth the adult (rather than the adolescent) in each of us and connect us to our latent but transformative deliberative skills such as the ability to separate our egos from our ideas and to use dispassionate disagreement.
For another thing, this mature decision-making process would be informed by reference to spiritual principles and human values that not only call out the best in each of us, but guide us to go deeper to discover nuanced, multi-faceted solutions that address the problems and exploit the opportunities more effectively than ever before.
For example, consider the immigration crisis that is currently causing consternation and disunity in the U. S., many other countries and the world at large. If the spiritual principles inherent in this issue were identified and agreed upon, it would change the shallow, conflictual, adolescent deliberation processes currently on display into a profound and comprehensive decision-making process that would generate social progress. To illustrate, some of the spiritual principles (in quotes) and human values (not in quotes) involved would be the following:
“The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”
The members of the human race are one family spiritually.
“Be a home to the stranger, a balm to the suffering….”
“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
Law and order are the basis for peace and security in every civilized society.
The bonds that unite individuals are love, compassion and forbearance; but what bonds nations together into a united world is justice.
“Justice has a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world…”
“The structure of world stability and order hath been reared upon, and will continue to be sustained by, the twin pillars of reward and punishment.”
The close reader will notice that the first four spiritual principles/human values seem to direct our solution finding in one direction while the second four seem to direct us in a different direction—and these two directions represent the polarized sides of the current argument in society. In reality, this perception is a false dichotomy because the truth of the matter can only be understood by entertaining all eight spiritual principles/human values at once. The wise, robust, loving, just and unifying solution must be a nuanced one that honors all of the eight principles in concert.
This is what mature, adult deliberation and decision-making looks like. We call this methodology Compassionate Consultation (CC) and it is introduced in detail in Jean’s and my second book, TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life.
As we observe the fractious and largely unproductive deliberating practices at the local, state, national and international levels all over the world today, it is difficult to imagine that the path to justice, unity and peace is anything but long and winding. However, for the increasing number of early adopters in families, communities, organizations and institutions in the world that are transforming their deliberative skills using Compassionate Consultation, the path to justice, unity and peace is increasingly straight. And the straightest path between two points is always the shortest.
If the path to justice, unity and peace in your personal world seems long and winding, find the deliberative straight path by reading Jean’s and my book. The decision-making skills you develop will bring justice, unity and peace to hearts, minds and spirits.