In his best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey’s Habit 4 is “Think Win-Win.” From what we are witnessing on an almost daily basis in the world of politics and religion (sometimes the same thing for some people), it would appear that this habit is in woefully short supply.
In our political culture in Washington, D.C., both parties play the game (which is not really a game when it comes to the well-being and safety of the American people) as if it were zero-sum. If the Democrats win, then the Republicans lose. If the Republicans win, then the Democrats lose. That type of thinking, which used to be relegated by and large to the political arena, has infiltrated religious life as well. However, when politicians or preachers exhibit that kind of mentality, there are no real winners. In the end, their constituents and congregations lose.
What is needed today, in both our political and religious cultures, is a re-infusion of the “win-win” habit in our leaders. After all, if our leaders do not possess this kind of character trait, is it any wonder why our followers, including a large swath of the American people, live in a perpetual state of conflict? The art of compromise (a now dirty word) and the spirit of cooperation (replaced by a top-down dictatorial model) have become, sadly, a thing of the past for many of our institutions in government and religion. We can blame all of the ills of society on the boogeyman of Fox News or the “evil” machinations of “dictators-in-chief,” but that kind of blather will only deepen the divisions and lead to more loss all the way around.
What does a “win-win” habit look like? Covey describes it this way:
“Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration. . . . Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. We both get to eat the pie, and it tastes pretty darn good!” (THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE HABIT 4: THINK WIN-WIN)
Whether in politics or religion, we need more people who possess the character traits that lead them (and others) to interact, collaborate, and cooperate, not just for their own benefit, but ultimately for the benefit of their constituents or congregations. When that happens, everyone wins. And, we all get to eat the pie. Surely there’s enough pie to go around. Apple, key lime, or pumpkin, preferably.