In 2004, I was living and working in S. Korea. It was the first time I experienced a US presidential election while living overseas, and I was truly surprised by the interest my Korean friends and connections showed in the election. In retrospect, it made sense; the policy decisions in the US have wide-sweeping impacts around the globe. It was at that point that I started paying even more attention to US foreign policy.
In their book Real Influence, Mark Goulston and John Ullmen describe four steps in their “connected influence” model. The first step is “go for great outcomes,” which they define as “standing for something noble and worthwhile, … about going beyond where people want to be and showing them where they could be” (p. 39). This is what I hope to accomplish in this post.
Standing for Something Noble: America was once considered a world leader, promoting democracy and human rights, resisting totalitarianism, fighting for freedom and liberty. There is something inspiring in the images of Captain American and Superman, however unrealistic they may be.
However, that image was not entirely accurate. We have not always used our power and influence wisely or ethically. I was first made aware of the “dark side” of American exceptionalism when I was in high school and I learned about US intervention in other nations having catastrophic impacts on those nations.
As an example, I wrote a report for my history class my senior year in high school on the effects of US intervention in Nicaragua. I discovered that by supporting a “right-wing dictator” in the first half of the 20th century, the US actually set the stage for the communist regime to gain power in the 1970s.
Strangely enough, we still haven’t learned our lesson; we are still supporting repressive regimes in other countries, leading to the loss of civil liberties and human rights in places such as Iraq and Ethiopia.
Closer to home, we hear in the news everyday of injustices being perpetrated on the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the different. We tried to tell ourselves that prejudice was dead, but we see across the country that it is alive and well. I know I am not exempt, though I strive to identify and eliminate judgmental attitudes in myself.
Where People Want to Be: Clearly, these injustices can not be allowed to continue, either at home or abroad. I believe people want to see economic inequality and racial prejudices not merely reduced but completely eliminated, personal freedoms ensured. What I envision is a world where every person is enabled to reach their God-given potential.
Where I think we have trouble is that we disagree on precisely how to accomplish this. Some may think it is impossible and have given up, but I still have hope. A first step is “healing the timeline.”
Dutch Sheets, in his book An Appeal to Heaven, talks about “healing the timeline.” By this, he means that we as a nation need to recognize the injustices in our own history (and present), not deny or ignore them, and actively and humbly seek reconciliation.
We humans engage in denial at times, because it seems to alleviate the pain, but God doesn’t. His plan, as Isaiah said, is always to “rebuild … raise up … repair … restore” the broken timelines. The mending of these breaks allows the pain of the past to heal, not be buried. … Without true healing, this cycle of pain repeats itself generation after generation. …
Through humility, repentance, God’s love, and forgiveness, we can heal history’s timeline. (p. 22-24)
Showing Them Where They Could Be: After World War 2, we were the thought leaders of the world. We were respected even by those who disliked us. Still today, for good or ill, the US holds great influence on nations and individuals near and far. To deny that influence is to perpetuate injustice. We have to get our own house in order so that we can once again be an influence for human rights, justice, and liberty.
Links and Resources:
An Invitation – Join me for a live Q&A call, Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen
An Appeal to Heaven by Dutch Sheets
- A short, quick, easy read, full of hope for the future of America.
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.
- A systematic approach to difficult conversations that can make or break a relationship; more focused on specific types of conversations than Real Influence.