One of the things I have become very comfortable with in my life, is the idea of “truth in tension”. In an earlier blog I used the example of a violin to demonstrate that beauty is sometimes contained in the synergy between two seemingly opposing concepts. In fact, without the “tension” created by those opposing concepts being in a relationship with each other, the beauty itself may not exist.
Where would the sound of a violin or a cello be, without the tension of the incompatibility between wood and iron? It is that very tension that brings life and beauty to an inanimate object. Of course, there is also the talent of the performer 🙂
Such, I find, is life. One of its mysteries is that many of its fundamentals are found in tension with each other.
Justice, and Mercy.
Grace and Causality.
All are valid, meaningful and important concepts. And yet, on a first reading, they are like Oil and Water, they naturally disassociate from each other. Unlike Black and White, they do not blend to form something else.
Justice – the concept of being fair and reasonable; a quid pro quo.
Mercy – withholding natural consequences out of compassion
Grace – the condition of being favoured for no reason
Causality – the fact that everything has a natural cause and consequence
The really mature and wise of my friends are adept at living comfortably between any two such opposing concepts. I find, in my limited experience, that the more a person has embraced both and found a way to express consistently life between the two, the more attractive they are as a person and the more others are drawn to them as a source of stability and wisdom.
Those of my friends who are not able to do this, tend to be more volatile; swayed by circumstance and events that test their view on the world. They can be one thing one day, and another thing the next, based on any number of circumstances. The unpredictability of their world is in one aspect, colourful and varied. But in another sense it is unstructured and tiring. They can be trusted in their changeability, but deep trust is a bit harder
It is no surprise to me that every good leader I know, is comfortable with these tensions and adept at exploring them. It is also no surprise to me that every bad leader is not. Leaders by virtue of their roles are drawn into many environments where what looks like a balancing act is required. The “good of the team”, versus the “good of the individual”. The concept of confidentiality versus the need to keep stakeholders informed. Bring trusted by many different stakeholders, all with different expectations of what is trustworthy behavior…
Leaders are able to do this. What it creates is a deep trust. A trust in character, in personal integrity. Not simply a predictability of behavior. It goes deeper. Much, much deeper. It creates an environment where as a follower, I can lay down my insecurity and my need to know everything, and simply trust that the person in charge is wise enough to make a good call, with the best possible outcome for all stakeholders in mind. It helps me to get on board, and row hard, in a direction I did not pick myself. It enables me to head into stormy weather, with confidence that if I play my part, the person in charge is competent to play theirs and guide us through.
In the workplace, this alone has the capacity to be the swing factor in creating a strong deep workplace culture. It can be the death of a team, or the lifeblood of it.
Husband and wives, this applies to marriage too. We are not always predictable, as people. We are flawed, and inconsistent, and we are balancing our inner worlds with its personal storms and challenges, with our outside world where we are needed to be consistent and reliable. If your spouse is your emotional punching bag, you are not doing well in this area. Men, if you haven’t reconciled the tension of sexual desire with monogamy and exclusivity, you are not doing well in this area.
Parents and children, it works here as well. If we discipline with anger, we still have stuff to learn. Yes disobedience is frustrating. We are responsible to mould them into something profound – an adult – WITHOUT using our own flaws as the mould! That just creates inverse copies of ourselves. If we focus on providing things at the expense of emotional connection and time, we still have stuff to learn. Truth in tension! Both are required and there is only so much time.
Just some food for thought…
Leaders: How good are we at inspiring the confidence of diverse stakeholders (Test: could we do it if they were in the same room together?)
Partners – can our partners trust our intentions even when our actions are not quite giving off the same vibe? Have we connected on a deep enough level that they can give grace, knowing what our heart is?
Parents – can we guide our children to maturity without forcing them to develop coping mechanisms for our flaws? Are we keeping our internal battles from them?