Home Concepts Adult Development VII. The Preconditions for Deep Caring

VII. The Preconditions for Deep Caring

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Perry suggests there is a fourth stage of cognitive flexibility that can produce even stronger and sustained motivation to enact generativity. He identifies this fourth stage as Commitment-in-relativism. At this stage, a generative person not only recognizes the value of alternative truths, value judgments, and moral compasses if they are coherently enacted within a specific community; they also possess a strong and sustained commitment to a specific set of truths, judgments and moral compasses of their own. They act upon these commitments rather than just supporting them or encouraging others who share their perspectives. It is this fourth stage that enables a full expression of deep caring. Again, generativity and deep caring is about actions and deeds–not just words and feelings.

One of our 100 Sage leaders sounded quite a bit like Michael Corleone with regard to his Italian upbringing and his deep commitment to family. Unlike Michael, however, this man found that some of the traditional values and perspectives with which he grew-up were at odds with the values he was coming to embrace as an adult. The cognitive dissonance caused by this clash in values motivated him to embrace the newer values and set aside the older ones. This is the essence of commitment-in-relativism and sets the stage for generativity:

As a young leader my style could have been characterized as explicit, external, assertive, confrontational, verbose, and earnest. There was this sense of needing to prove myself, to assure my worth or value, and to seek validation externally. I come from an Italian immigrant family, where many of these characteristics are cultural norms. However, I came to realize that while I was a rather effective young leader in terms of my tangible accomplishments, my leadership style often placed me at cross-purposes with my broader goal of fostering a more peaceful society. Because after all, I thought, if one cannot resolve conflicts and nurture peace in his or her own personal and professional interactions, how could one possibly believe in the attainment of global peace? That reflection helped me to evaluate and understand the role that I had played in creating or intensifying conflict, and it led me to a more self-disciplined approach to leadership—one that is still assertive but inclusive in reflecting more humility and compassion, and that allows more space for a diversity of opinions and perspectives. Sometimes, I find my old leadership qualities creeping into emotionally-charged situations, but I now have the maturity to hold myself accountable for those transgressions without it affecting my overall sense of self-worth and effectiveness.

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