October 12, 1999
I was told once that nothing meaningful ever happens until someone takes a stand. I know that my life changed very dramatically one day in 1985 when I took a stand on a personal issue, between myself and another person. It had to do with walking tall for my own self-respect after many years of repeated cycles where I compromised myself in order to please another.
In my professional life, particularly in my work on transformative leadership in the past decade, I learned that the really great leaders take their “place in the universe” and stand tall for their role, their responsibility, their choice in that stance.
Some of the people who’ve done this have included Czech president Vaclav Havel, Jane Goodall, South African president Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Jonas Salk, Copernicus and many other less well-known people throughout the ages.
One of the people I most admire is a woman named Lynne Twist. Lynne is a living example of someone who has clearly taken her stand in the world. She is a founding executive for The Hunger Project and serves on several boards, including the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the Fetzer Institute and the State of the World Forum – an annual event originated by the Gorbachev Foundation in 1995. In the Fall 1999 article of Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, she writes about the power of taking a stand:
Over two thousand years ago, the mathematician Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand, and I’ll move the world.” Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.
Stand-takers have lived in every era of history. Many of them never held public office, but they changed history through the sheer power, integrity, and authenticity of who they became as a result of the stand they took….When you have taken a stand with your life, you see the world as the remarkable, unlimited, boundless possibility that it is. And people see themselves through your eyes in new ways; they become more authentic in your presence because they know you see them for who they really are.
Buckminster Fuller once said, “When you discover the truth, it is always beautiful, and beautiful for everyone with no one left out.” This is also true of taking a stand.
Lynne then goes on to make a distinction – the difference between taking a “position” and taking a “stand.” She writes:
Taking a position does not create an environment of inclusiveness and tolerance; instead, it creates even greater levels of entrenchment, often by insisting that for me to be right, you must be wrong.
Taking a stand does not preclude you from taking a position. One needs to take a position from time to time to get things done or to make a point. But when a stand is taken it inspires everyone. It elevates the quality of the dialogue and engenders integrity, alignment, and deep trust. Taking a stand can shape a person’s life and actions and give them access to profound truths that can empower the emergence of new paradigms and a shift in the course of history.
Lynne’s words remind me of the enormous power of commitment, the power of taking a stand for something you really believe in, and seeing major changes happen in the world. And, there’s plenty of stands to take and any of us can do it.
John E. Renesch is a San Francisco writer, futurist, and business philosopher. To contact him call 415-437-6974 in the U.S. More information about him and his work can be found on the Web at John Renesch.
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