We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
This memorable passage closed Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Address. As we embark on our New Year and face seemingly similar uncertain times, I wonder about the “the better angels of our nature.”
We often use and hear the phrase, “it’s in our nature.” Whether forged by instinct, genetics, experience or habit is irrelevant. It essentially means, “who we are” or perhaps more accurately “how we will act.”
It’s surprising then why we are so often mystified or frustrated by someone’s behavior or even our own.
- A terrier puppy will chase squirrels, dig holes and want to chew anything. It’s in his nature. Yet we get angry when they chew our socks after we leave them on the floor.
- A narcissist will constantly draw attention to himself, take credit for things they haven’t done and believe they can do things better than anyone else. Yet we get distracted by their boasts and claims.
- A leader of any family or group will always look to take care of their own first. Yet we are dismayed when we they see “others” as threats.
We don’t take the time to understand the nature of things – whether animals, systems, people or ourselves. Instead, we simply judge their actions.
It is near impossible to change the nature of someone. What if instead we channeled that nature towards a better outcome for themselves and others.
- With a terrier it’s playing hide and seek with his toys so he doesn’t find and chew our socks.
- With a narcissist, it’s showing how helping others makes him look better so he doesn’t just do things for himself.
- With a group leader, it’s demonstrating how someone else’s betterment improves their group’s lot in life.
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always take the time to stop and think about what is driving someone’s actions, to really try to appreciate their nature. And I certainly don’t always do it for myself.
But if 2017 is to be a year, that in the words of Lincoln, “will yet swell the chorus of the Union, “ I suggest we all start soon.