searching for “both-and”

el capitan riccardo-oliva-7_5D2sLtP3Q-unsplash

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park – Photo credit: Riccardo Oliva – Unsplash

The other day my team was considering options that could help our co-workers all around the world continue to grow in authentic and dynamic faith, endure and persevere in times of suffering, and learn and thrive in community. As I listened and evaluated the suggestions, all I could think to say was… “Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes”.

It turns out we could likely use all of those options. Each particular need might vary depending on the situation, the personality, the timing, etc., but realistically, so many of the ideas were helpful and valid and worth offering. We didn’t need to eliminate one for the other. If we implement a variety of options, it will benefit more people.

After spending several weeks heart-broken and discouraged by the vast, complex, emotionally-charged challenges facing our world today, reflecting on that exercise has given me some hope. 

I am reminded today that most things are not “either-or” situations.

We are not playing a zero-sum game.

One doesn’t have to lose for others to win. We achieve more when we find “win-win” options. There is undisputed power in teamwork and shared best practices and collaboration involving a diversity of opinions and experiences and skills. We are amazingly creative, innovative, capable, productive people – when we work together.

I watched two documentaries this weekend about Eliud Kipchoge, who has run a previously-considered-impossible sub-two-hour marathon time, and Alex Honnold, who free-solo-climbed (no ropes or protective gear!) the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Both incredibly inspirational triumphs of human accomplishment.

Although they achieved individual feats, neither of the two extraordinary athletes I learned about this week succeeded alone. They both had mentors, friends, and abundant input from others with unique ideas and specialties. 

Their stories have moved me from agonizingly searching for one correct answer or one side to join, to breathing more deeply and feeling more encouraged as I view possibilities from the “both-and” perspective.

I believe we can care for each other, find cures, and survive with resilience – if we learn with and from each other, rather than judging and attacking before listening. We can correct our mistakes, forgive each other, and find better solutions – if we do it together, rather than separating ourselves into rival camps who cannot speak to each other civilly.

Rather than arguing that one solution inevitably rules out another, I am beginning the search for how to answer with “Yes. And yes. And yes”. I am not looking for 100% agreement – we’ll never have that. We will most likely need many of the options presented and some still-unknown-to-us-today combinations or inventions.

I am working hard to listen respectfully to many differing opinions and push through the anger, disrespect, and unilateral demands to identify the valid, helpful elements of truth in each perspective. This is not easy to do. Putting aside my selfishness, self-defense, fears, and hurts to listen intentionally, admit my errors, and change is very difficult work, but I believe it is an essential effort.

I am praying that many other people will offer their willing, compassionate hearts and humble, teachable minds to work together for “both-and” solutions and hope. Maybe you are one of those people.

How do you sort through disparate ideas? What helps you discover “both-and” possibilities?