Chapter 17: When Your World Tilts
In this chapter, Meylyne learns that the Tusked-Lions—creatures she has always feared—are not the savages she was brought up to believe. If anything, the royals are the ones at fault with all their secret-keeping and suppression of those that threaten them. Meylyne takes the knowledge in stride, saying,
“I’m starting to think anything is possible.”
This is a key attribute in any Hero’s Journey—the hero’s ability to learn and grow with experience. The hero then returns to their “ordinary world,” armed with knowledge that they use to better their world.
For most of us, however, un-learning previously-held beliefs is hard to do. As young children, we absorb information like sponges. The lessons we learn from our parents, their friends and our teachers are presented to us as the truth, and we take it at face value. As we get older, we learn to form our own opinions but still some of those early lessons are difficult to dislodge. Even when we think we’ve unlearned them, they linger in our unconscious. It’s altogether possible that if Meylyne ever makes it back home, and tells people how good and wise the Tusked-Lions are, no one will believe her.
“Why should we?” they might say. “We haven’t had your experience.”
True. But they have never experienced the Tusked-Lions at all. Every belief they hold about them, they’ve learned from hearsay! They could be open to the new information, but instead they stick with what they first learned.
In part, this is because most people don’t like ambiguity. It’s easier to think of issues as black or white, with no pesky shades of gray. For example, if a man robs a store of a loaf of bread, it’s easy to say, “he’s bad.” But what if you learn that he has a sick, starving child at home and his child needs the bread to live? Is he still bad?
We are faced with these sorts of questions throughout life. I used to own a recruiting agency and I sent a friend of mine to interview for a job with a new client. The client did not hire him for the job, but a couple months later, my friend emailed to thank me, because the client had hired him for a different job. When I contacted the client for payment, he said he wouldn’t pay me and if I sued him for the fee he owed me, he would fire my friend from the job.
What would you do? I walked away and let my friend keep his job. A lot of people told me that was wrong—that I shouldn’t have let the client get away with being a bully. That is true! At the same time, my friend needed the work.
Do you see both sides in this situation, or do you see the situation as one way or another?
It can be hard to accept that there are many ways to look at a situation, and that more than one way can be “right.” Openness to all sides is good in that it helps you get closer to the “truth.” But tolerating ambiguity like this can make it hard to make decisions. Let’s pretend that you are the queen or king of an island. An army is advancing by boat to your shores. They have come to recapture a treasure that your army stole from them. Your army should not have stolen the treasure but it was needed to save your people.
What do you do? Do you punish your army for their theft? Or reward them for saving your people? If you punish your army, the invading army will leave your people alone. If you support your army, war will be unleashed on your land.
You have five minutes to decide.
It’s hard, right?!
That’s when you’ll have to rely on your emotions. If your emotional intelligence is high, you’ll have a gut feeling that will tell you to go one way or another. You’ll also have to be okay with imperfection. We’ll explore this in the next blog article!
In the meantime, tell me about a situation you’ve experienced recently in which you had to tolerate ambiguity. What did you do? I’d love to hear from you!