Hello my friends,
As many of you know, I sent greetings to my friends on the irresistible date of 01-01-01 and then again on 02-02-02. Some of you have even told me you were awaiting the next message.
So I have been thinking about this for several days now. Fortunately, I have been on my annual retreat for the past week so I have had plenty of time to think. And to not think. On the long train journey home today, I wrote the first draft of this.
What I keep thinking about is the number three. That has led me to three learnings, to three questions, and to three possibilities. My first learning about three is in my relationship with Rosemary. When we got married almost five years ago, we decided as part of our ceremony to light three candles.
We have repeated that part of the ceremony several times since then. Rosemary lights a candle, I light a candle, and with those candles together we light a third candle. We keep all three candles burning brightly. I certainly don’t want to blow out my own candle, or Rosemary’s candle, or our candle. All three are vital.
We speak of these candles as representing the “me” and the “you” and the “you-me” that combine to create our relationship. We keep learning that all three need to be honoured and to be nourished. Our challenge is to keep all three in balance. I want to be who I am and to do what is good for me. Sometimes that interferes with who Rosemary is and what is good for her. So I decide, from moment to moment, whose good is more important. Even though I don’t get it right as often as I want to.
The catch is that if I decide too often in her favour that is just as unbalancing as deciding too often in my favour. What helps keep the balance is to remember the “you-me” and sometimes to decide to do what is good for “you-me” rather than for either Rosemary or me individually. So I now have three questions to consider: “Is this good for me?” “Is this good for you?” “Is this good for you-me?”
Here’s an example that occurs frequently: Our dog Poppy needs a walk. First is a “me” choice: one of us takes Poppy and meets a personal need for exercise or solitude. Second is a “you” choice: one of us offers to go with the other because the other has had a tough day and needs someone to listen. Third is a “you-me” choice: even though neither of us wants to go, we both decide to go because “you-me” needs some nourishing. This is certainly not the answer to everything. But sometimes when we are stuck, this image of the three candles brings us back together.
As many of you know, I often make connections between personal life and work life. I spend much of my own work life helping people to work more effectively in organisations. So I’ve been wondering if the three candles might help in organisations too. What if I were facing a difficult situation with a colleague at work and asked those same three questions: “Is this good for me?” “Is this good for you?” “Is this good for you-me?”
What if a group of us at work were facing a difficult situation with another group and asked three slightly different questions: “Is this good for us?” “Is this good for them?” “Is this good for us-them?”
Here’s an example that occurs often in organisations with teams that can choose to compete or to cooperate: A customer wants a particular service from our organisation. First is an “us” choice: our team delivers the service and gets the credit. Second is a “them” choice: our team provides some information to support another team that then gets the credit. Third is an “us-them” choice: both teams cooperate to deliver a service that exceeds what either could do alone and both get more credit.
So the three candles might help in organisations too.
And on this unique third day of the third month of the third year of the third millennium, what if the three candles applied to the whole world? What if groups of people (whether families or corporations or nations) asked all three questions: “Is this good for us?” “Is this good for them?” “Is this good for us-them?”
For example, a dangerous disease is devastating millions of people throughout the world. First is an “us” choice: our group protects itself by taking extra precautions for ourselves and staying away from people who might endanger us. Second is a “them” choice: our group sends money to the other group or writes letters in support of their situation. Third is an “us-them” choice: we all work together with our various skills to cure the ill, protect the healthy, and improve the world for all of us.
If you think the disease that I’m talking about is AIDS, then possibly you can imagine a group of HIV positive people in one country creating badges that are sold by gay and straight people in another country to raise money that supports other HIV positive people.
If you think the disease that I’m talking about is poverty, then possibly you can imagine a group of people bringing together the people who want to pay a fair price for crops and crafts with the people who want to be paid a fair price for producing those crops and crafts.
And if you think the disease that I’m talking about is war, then possibly you can imagine groups of people who actively support a world community and who entrust the safety of that world community to the police force of that world community.
Whatever the diseases and dangers are that we face, I hope that we can all imagine individuals and groups (families, corporations, and nations) that keep asking those three questions: “Is this good for us?” “Is this good for them?” “Is this good for us-them?” That way we can keep all three candles burning and not blow out anyone else’s candle.
So on this special day of threes, that’s the image I share with you. Three candles burning: my candle, your candle, and the candle that burns brightly for all of us.
Love and peace to each of you,