“This country was founded by a group of slave owners who told us that all men are created equal.” George Carlin
This quote is as funny as it is true. Georgia Carlin’s commentary is right on point. We were founded by men who wanted to give equal rights and protection of the law to all men. Even the American founding fathers naturally knew it was right to treat each other as equals, yet they still willingly rationalized that it only applied to some and not others. Instinctually, we know that we should not elevate ourselves above another human being, though we tend to do it every day. We take it even a step further than that when we rationalize why our life or well being should be considered more important than another person’s.
Have you ever been guilty of this? Have you ever thought that your time was more valuable than someone else’s? Have you ever worked for someone that clearly acted as though they were superior to you? How did that make you feel? Have you ever thought that your life was more valuable than another person’s? I think you will answer “yes” if you’re being honest. I know I have to answer yes to these questions, to my own embarrassment.
When I deeply reflect on this topic, I marvel at how we are so quick to excuse or brush off massive genocide in other countries but go into crisis mode when “our own” are killed, even in much lower numbers. It’s as if their lives are somehow worth more than people in other parts of the world. This brings me to another great quote I like:
“All men are created equal, it is only men themselves who place themselves above equality.” David Allan Coe
Again, deep down we know it is wrong to treat each other as unequal, but we can’t help ourselves. Here is another quote that shows how evil this can actually be:
“Democracy, the deceitful theory that the Jew would insinuate – namely, that theory that all men are created equal.” – Adolf Hitler
Now, put this quote from Adolf Hitler against the quote from Georgia Carlin. For me, it makes George’s quote much less funny. Not only is treating others as unequal wrong, it is both dangerous and evil.
Great leaders are great because they can break through barriers that others cannot. They are able to take a road less traveled, have unique self-awareness, and they understand how to treat people as equals (as we all should treat each other). It is slightly more impressive for a leader to do this, simply because of the authority and power that leaders inherently possess. If you have the power to make decisions that affect many people or to steward substantial resources, then certainly you are more important than someone else, right!? This might seem intuitive, but it is not so. Personally, I do not at all believe that was the intent of our creator.
“Equal” is a hard term for some to grasp when thinking about all mankind. What is most important is that we are all made differently, though perfectly, by a loving creator. All of our lives have a purpose, and we are all blessed with different strengths. The creator did not make any mistakes in creating any of us. It is us that have twisted the creation to elevate ourselves above others, and to put more value on certain strengths over others. Great leaders that see everyone else as their equal are not only authentically humble, they are unusually wise. They also accept that every person is different and as such, they cherish those distinctions. They appreciate all those differences and know that each person has equal value in the big picture.
I love this famous paragraph written by Ram Dass (check out the website, it’s packed full of great content that will challenge your thinking – https://www.ramdass.org/):
“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
I think great leaders see people in this way. I have moments when I see everyone in this exact way, and it is wonderful. It makes me feel so full of gratefulness and inner-peace. When I don’t see things this way, it gets me into trouble and, quite frankly, makes me less joyful and content. Things like pride creep in. Humility goes by the way side. Your head overtakes your heart, and that often means that our own sins are creeping into the situation.
The bottom line is this: Nobody wants to follow someone that believes that his/her life is more important than other lives.
Jesus represented God, and he treated everyone as equal. He mingled with thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors (considered to be “deplorables” in that time). He did this even though he could raise the dead, heal the sick, make the blind see, move mountains, etc. Clearly, he, more so than anyone else, would have logical rationale behind not treating others as equals. He even took it a step further than treating them as equals; he loved them unconditionally and accepted them as they were, not as they “should be”. People felt good about themselves in his presence, and they felt comfortable. Jesus showed common decency and respect by meeting people where they were and accepting them “as is”. His respect empowered them, as he made them want to be better, try harder, and to do the right things. Isn’t that what any leader wants for his team?