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Monthly Musing: Leadership for the Greater Good

Spring has sprung in Southern California, and although the season of renewal is in blossom for many of us, there are aspects of modern life that could easily bring heaviness to our hearts. As we grapple with the war in Ukraine and the societal pressures to address diversity, equity, and inclusion many organizations, individuals, and leaders (including yours truly) strive to live in a confusing space. Many of us wonder how we navigate this seemingly insurmountable challenge in our society and ask ourselves, “where can we go from here?”
As a peace advocate and a forgiveness teacher, I have many thoughts on how to heal the divide in our country and in our world — many of which are expanded in my book, Leadership for the Greater Good: A Guide for Truth to Power Champions. Read on to explore a high-level musing on how embracing people with opposing views can help us come together in the spirit of democracy.
he political landscape over the last few years has left the country divided into distinctive tribes and the general attitude of many is that “if you are not with me — in my beliefs and values — you are essentially against me.” This is NOT the foundation of democracy which has taught us, over the last 75 years since WWII, that the path forward can only be achieved in peace if we are able to debate opposing views with understanding, respect, and empathy so we may forge the best solutions. While this has worked well in the aftermath of WWII to build a strong peaceful western alliance and NATO; more recently, with domestic and international divisions, we are at the risk of further igniting more violence and wars. We have seriously failed in this dialogue which has exacerbated the division, spawned the war in Ukraine, and brought diversity, inclusion, and equity concerns to the front of our consciousnesses.
You would think that after having lived through several wars, we human beings would understand that wars have spawned other wars, killed innocent lives — including children — and always make the situation worse. Violence is never the appropriate response, irrespective of the circumstances. As MLK taught us, “You cannot destroy dark with dark–only light can do that; you cannot destroy hate with hate, only love can do that.” It is blatantly clear that wars should be absolute. So, what is the alternative? Working across divisions with compassion.
I am a prime example of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); I am a true blend of different cultures with opposing values and they have made me well-rounded and able to gain insight from all walks of life. I was fortunate to grow up in Kenya, exposed to the aboriginal wisdom of the soul of our beautiful African continent. My roots are Eastern, so I was doubly lucky to be exposed to the spiritual insight of the East. I was educated in the West and have lived half of my life in the United States, so I fully understand the material wisdom of the West and the good in it. There is a lot of good in all these cultures but alongside the good, there are also bad influences. Growing up with a strong emphasis on my spiritual foundation, I feel blessed that my inner guidance (through an established meditation practice) has helped me discern and synthesize the good essence in all these cultures.
We tend to hang out with people that look like us and share our values and beliefs. This subconscious (and sometimes conscious segregation) practice is limiting and deprives us of growth. Luckily, having lived and been raised in all these diverse cultures, I have realized that “genius” does not reside in a zip code, race, gender, religion, or nationality. Strong and evolved women and men of character can be found in all cultures. My latest book, Leadership for the Greater Good – a Guide for Truth to Power Champions, features women and men of different races, nationalities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds that have made a profound dent in solving our problems of war and DEI. Obviously, there are not enough of us to get to the critical tipping point … yet.
If you struggle with the division in the world and have a hard time finding common ground with people who largely vibe in the “other” tribe of thought, the question to ask is: “where do you live and who do you hang out with?” I have learned my best lessons more from people that are NOT like me; they are of a different gender, different religions, different values, and different political persuasion but they all have a strong ethical, moral, and spiritual compass. They have been an immense reservoir of wisdom for me and, to this day, are some of my role models. I continue to gravitate toward meeting these amazing “different” people in my international speaking, workshops, and interactions.
Having traveled through 126 of the 195 countries in the world, I am in deep gratitude for this blessing in my life which has favorably impacted me to create a wholesome philosophy of living life in these challenging times. I invite you to “meet” some of these amazing humans–that most of you will not recognize—in my latest book. I realize not everyone was blessed with my diverse upbringing nor has the capacity to travel for work, so part of my purpose to write this book is to bring the greater good of this colorful globe into an inclusive book for all.
Many years ago, I remember writing in my journal, “It takes intelligence to convert information into knowledge, however, it takes experience to convert knowledge into wisdom.” The truth is you do NOT learn a great deal from hanging out with people that are just like you, believing in the same beliefs and values. Wisdom lives in people that are often the opposite. When two opposing forces collide in peace and harmony you manifest a miracle.
I learned this truth when I forgave and reached out to Ples, the grandfather of the young man who took my only son’s life. He and I have been together for 27 years and he is as close to me as my own brother. We are water-bearers for each other. We are different in race, religion, and other “isms” – however, through the portal of forgiveness, we have fostered a bond that is stronger than steel. He served our country as a Green Barret during two tours of the Vietnam war.  This man would do anything for me as I would for him. Above all, I have learned a tremendous amount from him about the issues that have spawned the diversity, equity, and inclusion movement, and unnecessary wars.
My sisters and brothers, the solution is simple but difficult: we need to forgive and love our perceived enemies and those who have different opinions than ours (many families are suffering from such internal conflict). When we cause harm to another, we do the same to ourselves. When we forgive and extend love (hard as it might be) we are rewarded with peace, happiness, and fulfillment. Difficult, I admit, but it is a win-win solution! What is better for the greater good? To choose peace, fulfillment, and happiness? Or to choose and magnify anger and hatred?
It is challenging when there is so much turmoil in the world to not get angry as a reaction, but I remind you here that anger and hatred are self-harming emotions just like the concept of drinking poison hurts us more than the person it is directed to. Anger, hatred, and intolerance are at the core of the problems in the world … we can all see that. Consequences for injustices will be handled by a higher power, it is not our place to punish others for their intolerance. It is our responsibility as humans to be the change we want to see in the world. So, we must show up with love and forgiveness the best we can to heal the division and mend society at large. We all are ONE!
Peace and many blessings!
Azim Khamisa
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