Us vs. Them

Isolated diversity tree hands


Sometimes it’s the administration who’s the “us” and the faculty who’s the “them”.

And then, sometimes, it’s the administration and the faculty who are the “us” and the students who are the “them”.

Parents, it seems, are always “them”.

HR is “us” when there are a flood of  job applicants clamoring to get interviews, and HR is “them” when we can’t get in the door.

Patients in the ER are “them” when doctors and nurses feel overworked and concerned about narcotics-shopping.

Yet these same medical professionals become “them” when patients wait for hours to be seen.







Perhaps this “us vs. them” setup is a reflection of the basic human need for belongingness. For tribe. For clan.

For knowing where we stand in relation to others.

Who’s a friend? Who’s an enemy?

But what if that didn’t matter? What if you simply knew where you stood all the time?

What if you took a deep breath and tried on the radical idea that there was no “them” – there was only “us”?

Could you stand tall every minute of every day as a part of “us”?

What if, rather than deciding that the 911 caller was one of “them” – those corrupt and sneaky people who only want free transportation to the hospital – and let the phone ring 15 times or go to voice mail, the dispatcher answered on the first ring and was as helpful as possible for as long as she was needed?

What if rather than bristling at questions, the teacher saw the parent as an ally in the educational journey of a child?

What if rather than failure, we saw humanity in the eyes of the struggling?

What if in politics we could refrain from categorizing and limiting into rigid definitions of “us” and “them”? Might we actually get things accomplished for the common good?

[Be still my beating heart.]

Maslow suggested the highest expression of human full potential is a state he called “self-actualization”, or “the need to be good, to be fully alive and to find meaning in life.”

And you don’t get there by hating and dividing, darlings.

You get there by seeing the “us” in everyone. 

I have observed something in the last few years – have you seen it? People are clamoring to unite around something. You saw it with the Boston bombings as people lined the streets applauding the first responders. You saw it recently in Cincinnati when crowds spontaneously gathered to welcome three kidnapped women home. You see it in baseball stadiums as we stand in the third inning to honor our men and women in uniform.

We see it whenever people rush to help, rather than rush away.

That’s honoring the “us” in everyday life.

That’s a movement toward good.

And that’s what increasing numbers of people aim to do each and every day – they choose to see the “us” reflected in everyone they encounter.

Which changes the world.

In case you’re wondering, there’s plenty room for you in this movement, too.

All you have to do is join “us”.


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