The 4th of July was always an
important holiday for the community where I grew up. I’ll always remember the
anticipation waiting for the sun to go down and the real celebration to begin.
I love fireworks for 2 reasons: 1) Everyone seems
to love them, and 2) Nothing screams a unified celebration quite like they do!
With so many issues dividing us, the 4th of July is a rare and welcomed opportunity to unite under a common celebration
of freedom. Thanks to the many brave women and men who have gone before us and
established a country built on the rights of the people, we have the
opportunity to celebrate our independence together.
This year feels different. It feels more like “us
Earlier this week, Nike made a decision to recall
a shoe that featured the Betsy Ross American Flag because the company was
concerned “that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s
This of course sparked spirited debate across
media outlets and started a wildfire of controversy. One side arguing that the
flag was a symbol of patriotism and has a place in history, and the other side
arguing that the flag celebrates racism because it represents a time in US
history when slavery was both legal and acceptable.
Colin Kaepernick, activist and former NFL
quarterback was among those critical of the shoe design and advised Nike to
reconsider releasing the product.
I would like to recognize something very important: Colin Kaepernick’s response is a reflection of the deep-rooted and widespread pain caused by a long history of racism and violence against minority communities here in the United States. Our nation was not perfect then, and it is still not perfect today. And we must learn to live in that reality.
Which brings me back to Nike. To put it simply,
people have been offended, and Nike chose to respond by taking the shoes off
the market. Agree or disagree with their response, it raises some questions for
you and me to consider as leaders.
- What do we do when someone has been offended?
- What do we do when we have been offended?
- What is the best way to respond in situations like these?
I have one clear observation after these recent
events, and it is from a leadership perspective.
Your attitude is your choice.
Here’s the hard truth that we need to face as
leaders: you have the choice, ultimately, of whether or not you will be offended.
And further than that, you have the choice of how you will respond to the
People will always offend other people. This is
an undefeated truth that we can trace back for generations. As a leader, you
should expect to be offended many times along your journey.
When it comes to responding to a perceived offense, here are three important questions I want you to ask yourself:
- Did the other person have ill intent?
- Is the offense worthy of confrontation?
- Am I having an emotional reaction or a wise response?
It can be very difficult to find much middle
ground when facing emotionally charged issues. Leaders should be sensitive to
this in order to respond most appropriately.
John Maxwell has a helpful thought here. He says,
“place a ‘10’ on everyone’s head. In other words, anticipate the best from the
person that you’re coming in contact with, even before you know who they are or
what is motivating them. How you receive another person is an issue of your
When you anticipate the best from someone rather than expect the worst, unity becomes possible.
The divide in this country is wide. So wide in
fact that I believe we will only see progress if both sides start working to be
a part of the solution.
For the sake of unity, we would all do well to place a “10” on the head of another and anticipate the best from them. Love is possible, even in our differences.
As leaders, we must choose it.
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast