By Ellen McGirt
February 14, 2017

For so many of us who work, love really is the answer.

I stumbled upon a lovely post from a man named Bob Morse, who sits on the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (ACPC), in Ashland, Oregon. The peace commission says their central goal is that their small city comes to “identify itself” as a culture of peace—which is very on brand for Ashland if you’ve ever been there. It’s also somehow karmically necessary since Oregon was founded to be a white utopia.

Morse had been inspired by Ashland’s mayor, John Stromberg, who recently mused that ‘agape’ or an unselfish form of love for all people, might be the antidote for the divisiveness many people are feeling. Since then, Morse has been asking other peace ambassadors for their take on the matter.

From his quest:

‘Love is believing that everyone’s perspective adds to the betterment of all, especially if I strongly disagree with some of those perspectives,’ explained Rich Schaeff, one of several fellow peace ambassadors who responded to my query about the look of love in a culture of peace. ‘Love is reaching out to understand those different than I in pursuit of strengthening the bond between all people.’

Like all good peace commissions, they seem to be walking the talk. “The Ashland Culture of Peace Commission has made a practice of ‘pressing pause’ on agenda items when emotions or contentions arise within meetings,” writes Morse, “temporarily shifting priority to hearing diverse perspectives or examining perceived lack of belonging.”

This is exactly what chief diversity officers have been doing, according to a must-read story in today’s Wall Street Journal. John Simons spoke with several high-ranking diversity chiefs and found them scrambling to reassess their efforts in the light of a new administration that has vowed to undo many of the priorities of the previous one. By hitting pause, they’re finding ways to be sure that white men are truly included in the work.

From the piece:

Executives say they are looking critically at how they go about their work, ‘hearing from white men the same way you’d hear from a woman or someone who’s LGBT,’ especially if they feel they’re missing out on career development or other workplace opportunities, says Janese Murray, vice president of diversity and inclusion at energy giant Exelon Corp.

Rather than simply instructing white male middle managers on the proper ways to conduct themselves in a diverse workplace, Ms. Murray suggests inviting them to round-table discussions with women and minorities and encouraging them to air concerns.

Data overwhelmingly suggests that including white men as diversity partners is the winning strategy from a bottom line point of view, so the business case is there.

But it’s the agape case that really gets my Ashland flowing. It’s not hard to imagine what it feels like for people to have their work and existence reaffirmed by their leaders, and to be allowed to fully emerge from behind the protections of a privilege they may not feel.

So, on Valentine’s Day, I’ll leave you with this quote from lawyer, filmmaker, and interfaith leader, Valerie Kauer. She’s one of Morse’s favorites:

“Love is not a passing feeling; it is an act of will. It is the choice to extend our will for the flourishing of others and ourselves. When we pour love in places where there is fear and rage, we can transform an encounter, a relationship, a culture, a country. Love becomes revolutionary.”

Have an agape filled Valentine’s Day.

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