Recently my co-founder and I were discussing a sticking point with one of our partner NGOs, when she turned to me and said, “Do you notice how they’re all saying the same excuse?”
And here enters, stage left, The But Mentality.
Have you ever noticed the commonalities in the social platforms of conservatives and liberals? I don’t know about you, and this is how we like to break it down:
Both conservatives and liberals want to help people (we actually have a fundamental theory that we’re all driven by service). And they just happen to have a wee difference of opinion on how to do that best.
Conservatives, from our view, look at people and say “I have high expectations for you! I know you can do it! And you know what? You’ll probably fail a bit, and that’s ok – I’ve failed quite a lot in my day and got back on my feet again. In fact I learned the most from failure! So get out there and try, because I know you can do it!”
And liberals look at people and say, “I am here to help you! I know that the world has knocked you down, hurt you so much, and that you are beaten and bruised. I will be here for you every step of the way, holding your hand, because that’s what communities do.”
Oh, we love them both.
So here’s what we think – we think there’s great truth in both of those viewpoints. In fact, they are both so necessary, so needed in the world. Of course, we need them both. Together.
Let me explain.
First, the conservative view. Basically we sum this up in a Leadership truism: People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.
Bam. End of story. At least…for conservatives that’s the end of the story. And it’s so true. In working with people all over the world, we’ve found over and over again that, eventually, they come up with far better solutions for their life than anything we could offer.
The key here is…eventually. And that’s where the liberals enter the picture.
Because here’s what we’ve also found to be true – we haven’t all been given the same amount of training on how to do this.
That is, we don’t all have the same, equal amounts of instruction as we’re growing up on how to tackle all of the aspects of leading our own lives. In fact, some of us have downright gnarly situations that give us the exact opposite skills – no matter what sector or society you come from. And so, sometimes, some people need a bit of help. And sometimes some people need a LOT of help – like when terrible, broken, awful things like human trafficking and civil wars and rivers on fire are taking place. In those situations, we need to take drastic action and get the people out of the immediate awful in which they reside. And then…when a wee bit of space is created, and the immediate issues are alleviated…we find an opportunity.
We find an opportunity to help us all discover that we are, in fact, naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. And give us the tools, together, to use it. And then we all, of course, need to be pushed, pushed out and forced to fall. and Fail. And then… stand back up again. Together. Because, remember, this is us discovering together.
And, together, we build a community of leaders, supporting each other, and picking each of us up again each time we fall.
But…But…But…Hellooooo But Mentality.
We here this SO OFTEN from – well, frankly from ourselves. And everyone:
But you don’t understand how it is working with vulnerable populations! But it doesn’t work that way! But I don’t know how to do that! But THEY NEED US!
And, of course…But who will I be if I’m not helping OTHER people?
We realize that this is going to royally annoy many, many people. And, frankly – it of course annoys us, too. Perhaps we should all start getting annoyed with each other a bit, and learn how to do this better. Together.
And we invite us all to think about something. Many of the leaders of the communities that are receiving international aid are starting to reject outside technical experts, and telling people to leave and that they can use their own technical experts?
Perhaps…perhaps they’re right, my friends. Just an invitation to think about it. And, of course, perhaps they’re wrong.
Perhaps, in fact, it’s Both.
And we say this as a company that goes into vulnerable populations and…helps them. And do you know what? If we do our jobs well – which we endeavor to do with every fiber of our beings – we will be kicked out. In fact, we rejoice when we are kicked out. Why? Because we train people to lead their own lives, and if we’ve done a good job, WE WILL ALL COME TO A POINT WHEN WE’VE LEARNED MORE ABOUT LEADING OUR OWN LIVES, AND GET ON WITH LEADING OUR OWN LIVES.
And let me ask again…Why does this happen?
Because of something that we’ve seen over and over again. When the NGOs tell us “But THEY NEED US!”…? Our response is:
No they don’t.
Yes they did need you for a while. Just as all of us, every one, occasionally needs that helping hand reaching across and helping out. Dear Lord, we know that we’ve needed that over and over in our lives. And then…we needed people to get out. To let us figure it out on our own. Why?
Because we needed to believe in our own strength, not in the strength of others.
An invitation to toss out that But Mentality. And, perhaps, find something even greater.