Division’s Unseen Impact

By John Blumberg, Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity (www.BlumbergROI.com)

For years I’ve said that if I took all the great friends in my life and put them into one room, chances are they may not like each other. Maybe that scenario is true for all of us – or maybe not. I was born into an unseen diversity with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. At the time, this was clearly viewed as a “mixed” marriage. I was always grateful for this mixture.

After my father died at the young age of 56, my mom never dated or ever really considered it. She would simply say: Why would I? I’m still in love with my Jewish boyfriend. That never got old. Nor did the lessons learned from their “mixed marriage.”

It may be the very thing that helped me, at the beginning of my sophomore year, to lean into the disappointment of the consolidation of our beloved all-boys Catholic high school with an all-girls Catholic high school and a co-ed all-black Catholic high school. I would come to fully appreciate that school year and the two years to follow. To this day, they were the most important formative three years of my life. I can’t say I put those lessons immediately to work, but the seeds were firmly planted.

The challenges of the consolidation were plentiful, especially in Memphis where Martin Luther King had been assassinated just 15 months and 4.0 miles from our high school. There were disagreements, misunderstandings, and plenty of frustrations – but we all continued to see each other and work through the complexities of the context that were well beyond the maturity of our years. And it many ways, it matured us.

No doubt it gave us the opportunity to see beyond our own blindness.

Years later, beyond my level of conscious awareness, those experiences were likely what gave me the opportunity to see the concept of integrity in a whole new way. You might say in a way reimagined.

So often, with good intentions, integrity (as well as core values) can be unknowingly (and in some cases knowingly) used as weapons to divide. To judge. To stop seeing other people. It would be precisely what led me to plunge into the messiness of the reality of integrity. To let go of surface-level assessments of integrity allowed by shallow definitions like “honesty” and “what you do when no one is watching.” No doubt, these are beautiful lagging indicators of someone in a state of integrity, but a poor and limiting framework from which to start.

In my book Return On Integrity, I write about integrity as being whole, entire, and undiminished – integrated if you will. Integrity is indeed about bringing together.

Integrity is best described as a force for connection.

During the pandemic, I began posting daily thoughts on my social media platforms that eventually evolved into what I’ve called Whispers of Integrity. While I posted #876 today, one of the earliest is still one of my favorites. It simply said: Integrity is about the whole. The connectedness of all. Yet we resist this, clinging to convenient definitions of integrity like honesty. Then I pushed the issue a bit, completing the “whisper” with the following: Being “honest” while resisting a greater connection is, well, very dishonest.

In my September 2022 issue of my blog, The Porch, I reflected on the concept of being STUCK by sharing: What if division wasn’t our problem after all. What if we could just admit, personally and collectively, that we may simply be stuck – all stuck in different places. That realization itself may unfreeze, break free, dislodge, and release a whole new flow of integrity.

Division is like a blindfold, that diminishes our desire to learn while luring us into an addiction of convenient confirmations. The greatest risk in a deepening divide is that we stop seeing each other – eventually eliminating our desire to even try.

Integrity is always calling us into wider and deeper places. You could say that it gives us eyes to see. To see more. And to, most importantly, see more of each other. Perhaps integrity, in the essence of being whole, is about one’s capacity to hold more.

I have shared a couple of times, the Central African greeting that is used instead of our standard greeting of “How are you?” They begin with “I see you!” What a beautiful place to start a conversation … and an even better place to end one.

It sure makes for a better conversation on any porch … anywhere … and about anything. It would certainly make for a better world everywhere. It would sure be worth trying.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts! We could all benefit, if you would be so kind to share your thoughts email me at John@BlumbergROI.com!