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  • Dr. T

Common Denominators

Updated: Apr 2

In our quest to promote and encourage tough conversations, A Race to Healing is uncovering some common denominators as they relate to healing the racial climate in our communities. Through candid conversations, here is what we have discovered so far:

1- God

2- Hurt people hurt others

3- Forgiveness

4- Willingness to be wrong

5- Cultural Agility

Let’s start with the last one, Cultural Agility. We live in a world of macro cultures, and groups are categorized as nations, religions, and occupations. When engaging with people from a different culture, there is an unconscious search for a level of comfort. An easy way to explain this is by setting up two approaches: pragmatic and tolerance for ambiguity. Faced with a new situation, one’s initial response is either a pragmatic (practical) response, or, a willingness to accept not everything is simply one way or another – ambiguous.


In a race-related interaction, each person brings their own cultural lens to the conversation. A behavior or thought process may seem set in stone for one person but it is rarely matched by the other person- hence, tension. The differences of each person can, and should, be celebrated instead of used as a method to disenfranchise.

The equality of outcome depends on the quality of effort - ‘culturally agile’. (TH)

Interestingly, the common denominator for Cultural Agility has been uncovered within the thread of military voices. Each participant spoke about their interactions with people of multiple backgrounds - nations, religions, colors, etc. These experiences nurtured a ‘humanity’ focus, versus a ‘micro’ focus. Since not every person in the country will serve in the military and have the same experiences, it is worth considering that the anecdotal outcomes provide a clue for how to heal a hurting community and a hurting nation.

A willingness to be wrong is so difficult…. Just ask your spouse, partner, friend, child, or parent. Growing up means being accountable for actions, especially those that hurt others whether on purpose or by accident. Watching the news indicates a trend toward a lack of regard for others’ rights and properties. A faction of bad people, yes, but negativity spreads faster than positivity.


“There is ample empirical evidence for an asymmetry in the way that adults use positive versus negative information to make sense of their world; specifically, across an array of psychological situations and tasks, adults display a negativity bias, or the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652533/)


A great book that discusses our inherent ability and inability to understand biases and behaviors is “Blind Spots.” (Bazerman & Tenbrunsel). The authors stated, “We will explore the implicit psychological processes that contribute to the gap between goals and behavior, as well as the role that organizations and political environments play in widening this divide.” Part of the discussions we all need to have is how to lessen the divide between how we think we act and how we actually act. Political and organizational environments should not define people, the people should, and need to, define organizations.

Forgiveness: Of all the available definitions of this term, the following speaks to healing the best: “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is another common thread among many who have shared on this forum. Forgiveness of others and of oneself. In the book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” the author Yancey described the feeling of forgiveness like this: “I never find forgiveness easy, and rarely do I find it completely satisfying. Nagging injustices remain, and the wounds still cause pain.” When Joseph forgave his brothers, the hurt remained “but the burden of being their judge fell away” (Yancey). Forgiving does not indicate compliance or agreement. It is a fundamental choice to rest in the knowledge that you have done what you can for yourself and for the other person(s). It is up to God to balance the scales.


I am fortunate to have had parents who taught me and my three brothers to apologize, often, for the shared hurt we dished out on one another. Although we thought we were always right, it didn’t matter because getting along and loving each other was more important than confirming our perceived rightness. Forgiving gave us the freedom to rise above our self-indulging attitude about wanting to be right.

Hurt people hurt others. I first heard this from Chief of Police, Chris Mitchell. Although I knew it was a thing, I hadn’t put it into context with current events until Chief shared it.

Even when other people are wrong and hurtful does not mean they think that way about their own behavior. Dale Carnegie explained a formula that works in a situation when someone is hurtful: “Don’t condemn them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional people even try to do that.”

Understanding the ground upon which others tread, is a gain for all. (TH)

“Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly is a great read. If we are hurting, we can start repairing but it takes effort. The hurting scenario begs the question- which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who hurt whom first? Does it matter? In most of our conversations on this platform, people have shared their hearts about being hurt. What stuck out as a common denominator is that these ‘hurt people’ are not hurting others. These amazing and brave people, young and wise, place credit of their resilience where it belongs: with God.

God. “We keep resisting God even after we are convinced that His way is the best way” (Kelly). Although this forum is not faith-based, (because we include everyone) we are, however, faith-driven. “All that is needed to rebuild community as a viable life form for large numbers of people is for enough servant leaders to show the way, not by mass movements..” (Conversations on Servant-Leadership-Ferch, Spears, McFarland, Carey).


Prayer works. Love works. The Golden Rule definitely works. And most importantly, if you haven’t tried it yet, or recently, God works.

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