In an increasingly global world, the challenge of security and inclusiveness is expanding. From national governments to individual souls, we waver in the difficult balance of the vulnerability necessary for community and the boundaries necessary to protect ourselves. The paradigm we often use is Us versus Them. Like so many things in the modern world, it is not so much that we get the answer to this question wrong; the problem is that it is the wrong question altogether.
A Fatal Flaw
The first problem with Us versus Them is that the two sides are not mutually exclusive. It is a poor choice when Us matters and Them matters and there is no option on the table to bring them together. This is where so much debate and frustration manifests itself. Whether it is foreign policy or marital intimacy, we find ourselves circling around an argument that we know, deep down, is in desperate need of a third way.
Relationally, I have seen the Us versus Them mindset destroy marriages and devour friendships. It makes contestants out of people not meant to compete. It short-circuits unity. Each spouse fights for his/her own way because the other option is to disappear to the will of the other. And we are faced with passive-aggressive, manipulative, and coercive individuals trying to get their own way.
A Better Question
Life is really about the question of Me Versus We.
It is easier to call it Us than Me. It allows the possibility to veil our selfishness in a crowd and shame others, presupposing an entitled expectation that there is a crowd supporting my selfish ambition.
The real problem in the world today is Me. In my marriage, the problem is Me, in this country, the problem is Me, in my group of friends, my church, my band, my city, the problem is the same. Me.
The world is dividing up into a collection of like-minded Me-focused individuals. This is a far cry from being a true Us. A long way from true community and healthy togetherness.
On the other hand, the real beauty in the world is We. The value of my marriage is growth through togetherness. The significance of my church and city and friends is the unified diversity of individuals under a common goal.
Changing the paradigm does not save me from having to make a choice. It allows me the perspective to understand the choice better and sets me up to make the correct one. But in the end, it is still a choice to be made.
In my marriage, my parenting, and my friendships, am I fighting for myself or am I fighting for the family?
We does not mean the absence of Me. It is the inclusion of Me on its most effective level. The growth of Me. The proper utilization of Me. The absorption of Me into something much bigger and much more important than myself. I am so afraid of loosing my value. The irony is that my value is most truly discovered within the context of a valued community. I find myself in giving to others. This is the paradox of love and the mystery of sacrifice.
If we want to move from combat into collective, we have to start choosing We over Me. The first step is to erase the delusion of the Us versus Them paradigm and replace it with a more honest and properly framed question.