I grew up in a very black and white world. I have a mind that tends to think that way and a personality that lends itself to that kind of thinking. I love to have things compartmentalized into nice little boxes in my head.
That works really well if you live a neat, tidy life. But if you veer off of the road called "normal," whatever that looks like, suddenly life gets messy and things don't fit any more.
One of the ideas I had in my mind growing up is that good parenting equals good kids. If parents do things right, kids automatically grow up to make good choices. It made logical sense. But when my parents, who I know were awesome parents, had two of their three children choose to NOT follow Jesus, to lead a completely different life regardless of their upbringing and my parents prayers, I was forced to recon with the fact that my thinking was incorrect. God doesn't take away free will from children who have good parents.
So, I had to change my either-or thinking. No longer could it be "Either kids have good parents and make good choices, or they have bad parents and make bad choices." I had to change it to both-and thinking. "Kids can both have good parents and make bad choices."
I also spent my early twenties in theological debates. I won't go into detail here about the various arguments I had, but I was definitely an "either-or" thinker. I have come to realize that God is a both-and kind of God and that I need to think that way too. God is both just AND merciful. He both expects us to be holy and offers us grace when we aren't. He both loves us and corrects us. And so those debates have faded into the background and I've landed in a place where I can understand the that God lives in the tension between the extremes.
In my professional life I have learned there is one mistake that we all often make We head into a situation where conflict is possible with an "either or" mentality. Either this conversation is going to end up the way I want it to or it is I am going to lose and the other person is going to get their way.
Within the last year I have learned something that has transformed the way that I lead. If two parties can be honest, direct, and respectful, the conclusion is better than what either of them had thought was best. Not either his way or her way, but both his way and her way can result in a better way that neither thought of before.
As I begin my new journey as a leader at a new organization, I am committed like never before to be a both-and kind of person. To look outside the box, to communicate clearly, and to listen better than I have ever listened before.
And as I continue my journey as a parent of adult children from afar, I hope to incorporate those same principles into my interactions with my children.
Maybe during 2016 you can join me in efforts to be a both-and kind of person, rather than either-or. I would love to hear other examples of this concept that my thoughts have spurred on in your mind as we all learn and grow together!