Give and Take

This country has always operated on the ‘give and take’ between political ideologies. In fact, it was built on it and for a quick reference listen to the banter between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton during the second song from Act II “Cabinet Battle #1” – whether to establish a national bank. This is resolved in “The Room where it Happens” in which Hamilton negotiates a compromise with Jefferson. Then in the seventh song from Act II, “Cabinet Battle #2” is the debate on whether to give aid to France during the beginning of the French Revolution. Hamilton and Jefferson were staunch rivals, yet they were able to work together to move the country forward and later, Hamilton supports Jefferson for President as he realizes that is what’s best for the country.

These days there is little, if any, give and take. There is no ‘what is best for the country,’ just what is best for the ideology. We have become a country whose political parties think only in terms of win-lose and to admit the other side has a good idea is impossible. ‘Give and take’ is conceivable when the gap between ideologies isn’t so severe or bitter. Over the past few decades, the extreme ends of each political ideology have dominated the conversation and controlled the platform of ideas. As a result, the gap has become wide and deep – I would call it a chasm – to a point that there can be no give and take.

Adding to the problem is that political and national media, mostly exploit these extremes in their coverage. We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in their need to peddle indignation and extreme propaganda to drive profits. We have allowed social media to remove the human element of the debate. We have set aside ownership to think for ourselves. We have contributed to the problem. I still believe that if we take the time to step back and listen empathically, we can find a place to start a discussion and build to an understanding.

The expression ‘give and take’ dates to the eighteenth century and is defined as a mutual concession or fair exchange. Give and take means people or groups in a relationship accept they cannot have everything they want and they must give for the greater good. All good partnerships involve a bit of give and take.

In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt insisted that “we ought to have two real parties—one liberal and the other conservative.” The presumption was that it would be possible to organize partisan tension around contrasting agendas without igniting political warfare. He believed that concern for the overall health of the nation would keep the parties from erecting “an ideological wall.” A half-century later, the wall he feared has been erected.

Hyper-partisan hostilities and righteous passion for one’s own side eliminates give and take as an acceptable strategy to jointly move forward. The Left believes that the perceived Right-wing principles of bigotry and racism is tearing the country apart. The Right believes that the perceived Left-wing principles of identity politics and political correctness is tearing the country apart. Distrust and resentment are poor foundations for a partnership.

Three years ago, I posted “Meet me in the aisle”. That blog post discussed meeting on common ground by leaving our current stance. It touched on nature’s concept of symbiosis, a partnership between organisms and has helped living creatures innovate and expand for billions of years. This courageous interaction leads to compassion and humility, to regarding the greater good as more important than our self-gratification.

Passion, hard work, and talent are drivers for individual success. However today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others and the element of give and take. Give and take creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of others. Success that may not be immediate, but instrumental over the long haul and more sustainable.

Humans can be very self-centered and relationships can begin one-sided, seeking the advice or favor of another. Healthy relationships don’t stay that way, they grow and become about reciprocity and mutual benefit – or put another way ‘give and take.’ Successful marriages, families, communities, organizations, and nations sit upon a foundation of cooperation and the advancement of all, not just those who think like we think.

One of the best songs of all time is The Supremes 1966 Motown hit, “Can’t Hurry Love.” Phil Collins’ version in 1982 is one of greatest covers. The song is centered on the patience and work required for a special relationship – “love don’t come easy, but it’s a game of give and take.” Not surprisingly, the song is strongly influenced by gospel music, inspired by a 1950s gospel song, “You Can’t Hurry God, He’s Right on Time.”

In Acts 18 and 19, we find the Apostle Paul engaged in conversation with unbelievers. The Greek words used in these conversations are the concepts of reasoning, arguing, and persuading. It was not an authoritative sermon. Paul knew that Gospel conversations are more valuable than Gospel presentations. There was give-and-take. Paul answered questions and addressed objections. He listened and tailored his message to address their objections and understand their needs.

As a Catholic, I give up meat on Fridays during Lent. An outcome of this tradition, years ago, was community fish fries to fill the void for dinner. So, the practice wasn’t just about giving up meat, it was also about taking on the practice of being in community as we gathered over a meal. There have been other Lenten practices about giving things up (foods, habits, alcohol, TV, Social Media) or taking things on (Bible reading, Prayer, Serving). In either case, the point being to draw closer to God as Jesus draws nearer to the cross.

Give and take is an interesting concept when we consider Man’s relationship with God. In actuality it is the relationship – 100%, in both directions. We are required to give completely of ourselves to God and he is present and available, fully, for us to take.


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