Researcher Julia Galef recently offered great insights on the idea of a Scout mindset vs. Soldier mindset pointing out that most people see their interactions with others as a competition. Somebody’s gotta win and somebody’s gotta lose reflecting the philosophy of an unreformed “Ricky Bobby” (Talladega Nights 2006).
Samuel Clemons, better known as Mark Twain said that the two most important days of one’s life are the day he or she was born and the day that person discovers why they were born. We search for meaning seemingly by nature of how we were designed and that inquisitive attribute cannot coexist with hate, oddly enough. Yet hate and dehumanization flow methodically and constantly through the blood stream of America like tree sap in 2016. It could be argued that the advent of social media was like handing virtually everyone on earth a microphone with no one in the sound booth to cut the mics. And so searching for purpose or living it out seems to have taken a backseat to low-budget preaching late at night after a trying day or a national catastrophe.
But a military fighting force without the ability to understand its enemy is useless and destined for mass casualties. Americans expect and practically demand a solider-like allegiance in order for there to be peace. And so we criticize Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) because he won’t stand for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner (American National Anthem). Donald Trump supporters speak in a vernacular that supposes they are the only ones who want America to be great. The National Rifle Association fears the abridging of Americans’ right to bear arms and anti-gun advocates often discount that apprehension. It’s hard and maybe even impossible to have dialogue with a soldier mindset.
The scout is somewhere perched in a tree or embedded behind enemy lines to survey and assess for the sake of reporting back to her or his command. Information gives his forces intel they need to succeed in the theater of war. But what of America’s war right now? Could a scout’s mindset reveal that our ideological civil war is first addressed inside of ourselves? On any given day, any truth that comes out of our mouths about religion, education, politics, racism can be both true and false in some aspects. Americans like tradition if it’s their own and we love a winning team so we drop anchor where it makes sense and tend to lock out alternative viewpoints wholesale.
But a truth worth surrendering to is that scouts watch, listen and observe which is hard to do if mouths are always runnin’ like bath water. Are we really a nation of control freaks unwilling to engage discourse and exchange perspectives so that we might understand…not convert…but understand? Conversion is in the heart of an individual and, I believe, prompted by power far greater than our own. Authentic leadership of self and others has to involve bravely “scouting” and reporting…and I’ll add…transforming if it’s required.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.” (James 1:19 [New International Version])
Troll Facebook news feeds if you must today and before you “un-friend” (which was never meant to be a verb by the way), think of a question that will help you understand…and ask it.