The 4th of July was always an important holiday for the community where I grew up. I’ll always remember the anticipation waiting for the sun to go down and the real celebration to begin. Fireworks!
I love fireworks for 2 reasons: 1) Everyone seems to love them, and 2) Nothing screams a unified celebration quite like they do!
With so many issues dividing us, the 4th of July is a rare and welcomed opportunity to unite under a common celebration of freedom. Thanks to the many brave women and men who have gone before us and established a country built on the rights of the people, we have the opportunity to celebrate our independence together.
This year feels different. It feels more like “us and them.”
Earlier this week, Nike made a decision to recall a shoe that featured the Betsy Ross American Flag because the company was concerned “that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.”
This of course sparked spirited debate across media outlets and started a wildfire of controversy. One side arguing that the flag was a symbol of patriotism and has a place in history, and the other side arguing that the flag celebrates racism because it represents a time in US history when slavery was both legal and acceptable.
Colin Kaepernick, activist and former NFL quarterback was among those critical of the shoe design and advised Nike to reconsider releasing the product.
I would like to recognize something very important: Colin Kaepernick’s response is a reflection of the deep-rooted and widespread pain caused by a long history of racism and violence against minority communities here in the United States. Our nation was not perfect then, and it is still not perfect today. And we must learn to live in that reality.
Which brings me back to Nike. To put it simply, people have been offended, and Nike chose to respond by taking the shoes off the market. Agree or disagree with their response, it raises some questions for you and me to consider as leaders.
- What do we do when someone has been offended?
- What do we do when we have been offended?
- What is the best way to respond in situations like these?
I have one clear observation after these recent events, and it is from a leadership perspective.
Your attitude is your choice.
Here’s the hard truth that we need to face as leaders: you have the choice, ultimately, of whether or not you will be offended. And further than that, you have the choice of how you will respond to the offense.
People will always offend other people. This is an undefeated truth that we can trace back for generations. As a leader, you should expect to be offended many times along your journey.
When it comes to responding to a perceived offense, here are three important questions I want you to ask yourself:
- Did the other person have ill intent?
- Is the offense worthy of confrontation?
- Am I having an emotional reaction or a wise response?
It can be very difficult to find much middle ground when facing emotionally charged issues. Leaders should be sensitive to this in order to respond most appropriately.
John Maxwell has a helpful thought here. He says, “place a ‘10’ on everyone’s head. In other words, anticipate the best from the person that you’re coming in contact with, even before you know who they are or what is motivating them. How you receive another person is an issue of your attitude.
When you anticipate the best from someone rather than expect the worst, unity becomes possible.
The divide in this country is wide. So wide in fact that I believe we will only see progress if both sides start working to be a part of the solution.
For the sake of unity, we would all do well to place a “10” on the head of another and anticipate the best from them. Love is possible, even in our differences.
As leaders, we must choose it.