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SPACE AND IDENTITY EXPANSION

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IDENTITY

A close friend was a community leader, a senior business executive, and large property owner.  We respected and supported each other, in business and personally, for almost 30 years.   We often differed politically, but I always listened to him generously and affirmed many of his criticisms and aspirations.   In the weeks before a recent U.S. Presidential election, I made the mistake of telling him that I wouldn’t vote for his preferred candidate.    A few days later I got an email (written at 3:00 am), saying I was no longer his friend and was no longer welcome at his farm — I was a friend of his enemy and therefore was now also his enemy, and an active partner in the destruction of the country that he loved.

I was stunned, shocked, hurt, confused, filled with loss, and clueless as to how this could be.   I’d threatened his identity.   At the deepest level, he considers himself to be someone who controls what he thinks is important; his money and his belief that profit is the fundamental basis of freedom and of his own and his country’s success.   This identity trumped friendship, history, and our future.

My former friend is a victim of his own identity, his own rules for right and wrong.  I had threatened his very survival, his future, his money, his family.  It seems to me most strange that people who value personal freedom above all else can succumb to their own beliefs about who they are, and in doing so make a mockery of the very freedom they love.

Identity can be personal, relational, tribal, religious, national, political, or rooted in a profession or a business.   Identity is who you consider yourself to be and when unbridled, is a relationship killer.   In his remarkable new book, Negotiating the Non-Negotiable[2], Daniel Shapiro, Founder and Director of the Harvard International Negotiation Project, refers to ‘relational identity’ as the greatest barrier in conflict resolution and meaningful progress in many personal and collective efforts to change, or to resolve conflict.   Identity is who a person or a group believes they really are, who they consider themselves to be, and what they consider themselves not to be.  Identity is a state or fact of remaining the same under varying conditions — it is the character of who a person or group is; their qualities and beliefs.

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