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Monthly Archives: April 2021

Promoting Religious Freedom – A Corporate Social Responsibility

30 Apr, 2021

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


The launch of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in 2014 was spurred by a powerful, well-researched White Paper entitled “Promoting Religious Freedom: A Corporate Social Responsibility.” In it, researchers affiliated with the new foundation cited many studies and highly regarded international standards in support of the proposition that a corporate focus on religious freedom (for employees and societies at large) is good for business and good for the world. Since then, the evidence supporting this CSR call to action has grown even more compelling.

This blog isn’t the right place to update the scholarly research. Instead, I’ll provide a few personal vignettes to illustrate some of the foundational findings from that White Paper.

First, let me share why the particular CSR cause of freedom of religion and belief (FoRB) is important to a lawyer like me. To my thinking, a healthy, ethical corporate culture must rest on more than written codes and compliance mechanisms. What’s needed is a connection with employees’ hearts – the core values and beliefs that govern what they do when nobody’s looking. From whence does a worker draw courage to raise questions about safety, or about compliance with ethical standards, when it seems the pressure is predominantly on short-term profitability? Why draw attention to the fact that a supplier uses slave labor, or pollutes the environment, or discriminates against a group of people? What impels employees to humbly acknowledge their own mistakes, or to re-direct credit to someone else for a job well done? What motivates a worker to care about people of another race, nationality, sexual orientation, culture, religion or belief? Why would one visit a diverse coworker in the hospital, or take the time to improve healthcare measures in a developing country?

The answer is that what motivates people to do these kinds of things is their faith, or their core belief (whether they identify as “religious” or not). Their ultimate “WHY” is what impels employees to embrace social responsibility. Helping employees connect with their ultimate “WHY” at work promotes CSR. What’s more, companies that actively promote FoRB in countries throughout the world will advance the cause of civility. It’s good for business and good for the world.

Recent research and events of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation have illustrated the strong and growing support of freedom of religion from industry leaders like Intel, Texas Instruments, Salesforce, and others identified in the Foundation’s REDI Index It’s clear: More and more companies are opening doors to religious expression, worship, prayer, religious mentoring and cross-faith celebrations and events in the workplace. And real-life stories of the positive effects of such openings are spreading widely. Here are a few of my personal experiences, illustrating how this focus on freedom impacts the world.

I’ve seen Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bahai, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus eagerly learning about one another’s core principles and beliefs. I’ve known recruits who joined and stayed at companies because they provide an atmosphere where employees can live out their faith openly, and not “under cover;” where they can feel free to speak of what defines who they really are. I’ve seen atheists relishing the fact that they can “come out of the closet” and let others know of their core values and perspectives. I’ve seen a custodian quietly praying together with an executive over a personal loss; and insightful business mentoring rooted in rigorous study of the sacred writings of various religions. I’ve experienced stirring worship, prayer and scripture study taking place in workplaces, open to every person regardless of background or inclination. When layoffs became necessary, I’ve seen people of various faiths draw such strength from their beliefs that they became comforters to their bosses – the ones who were tasked with delivering the bad news. Between LGBTQ people and advocates of traditional faiths, I’ve seen unwarranted walls of distrust and fear supplanted by deep respect; kindness and admiration. And tears of joy as people are acknowledged for who they truly are. Collegial alliances in service to the needy, among people across faith divides. And bonding laughter. Lots of bonding laughter.

This is transformational stuff.

And it’s not a leap to conclude that these kinds of transformational experiences impact the entire world. The employees I’ve referenced hail from countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Africa, Russia… And they engage with buyers, suppliers and co-venturers all over the planet. The fact is, companies that seek to advance FoRB in all their spheres of influence business are making a difference.

It’s clear: Freedom of Religion is a worthy part of our companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. Embrace it; and watch your company transform the world for good.

Religious Freedom Impacts Your Organization & Society More Than You Realize

27 Apr, 2021

Originally published 4/26/2021 by Global Leadership Network, GLN Staff Writer


What happens when people have religious freedom in the workplace? It has greater impact on our societies than you might think.

Research shows when leaders create environments where their employees feel free to bring their whole self to work, including their faith, it proves to be better for business, economies and even whole societies.

…where people are free to bring their whole soul to work, you create stronger teamwork…

Brian Grim, founding president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, is the world’s leading expert on the relationship between religious freedom and the economy, having held leadership roles with the World Economic Forum, as well as the Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. He was also instrumental in setting up the first western-style business school in Kazakhstan after the fall of the Soviet Union. Having spent 20 years in China, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the former USSR, Brian has acquired a wealth of research and first-hand experience which he now brings to his work to help leaders bring religious diversity, equity and inclusion into the workplace.

“In the data of religious freedom around the world, we see that religious freedom is being more restricted as we go on,” said Brian. “Even in this past decade, we’ve had religion related genocide in Iraq, Myanmar, China, etc.—and it’s harkening back to the holocaust. How can this be happening in this day and age? This is a blatant reminder that religious freedom is not respected, and as a result, people are killed because of their faith.”

A further dynamic found in Brian’s research was the realization that there are layers deeper than government restrictions at play in religious freedom. “It’s not just government restrictions, there’s a whole social dimension to whether or not people feel freedom. So, in my research, I began to include measures of the social restrictions that keep people from being able to fully practice, and it was the first time anyone had ever done that.”

These findings have led him to the important work he’s doing today. Brian explains that governments, advocacy and law have not been able to stop restrictions that lead to violence. So, who can influence this much-needed change? He believes it will be led by business. “Historically, religion has made its way through the world through business,” said Brian. “And where you have religious freedom in a business, where people are free to bring their whole soul to work, you create stronger teamwork, more investment in the company, more retention and greater motivation.”

Read full article at Global Leadership Forum.

The Heart and Soul of Corporate Social Responsibility: Faith & Belief

24 Apr, 2021

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


People often presume that corporate America only really cares about one thing: profits. But that’s not true! Companies are increasingly speaking out about and taking action to influence positive changes in society at large; to “do good.” We recommend that companies that are serious about doing good ought to free their employees to speak from their hearts and souls into the larger issue of what “doing good” ought to entail.

Let’s back up a bit, because in one sense it’s true: corporations don’t really “care” about anything. Corporations are a legal fiction. They have no moral compass or character, other than that of their leaders and workers. They have no direction other than the bare legal rules which include, in significant part, to pursue financial rewards for their stockholders. But HOW they do so – and WHAT ELSE they do in addition to seeking profits – are questions left significantly up to the discretion of the people engaged in the company.

So, WHY do so many companies increasingly invest money and resources to “do good?” WHY do they exceed the bare legal requirements, and voluntarily engage in good works like the ones listed in the graphic (among many others)?

Skeptics often presume that these kinds of “Corporate Social Responsibility” efforts are motivated simply by leaders’ desire to look good, and to avoid the embarrassment that would result if they were seen as callous to societal issues. Some think that the CEOs simply pick and choose the causes they want the company to champion based on personal bias or relationships, without giving any thought to the beliefs and values of their employees. In a growing number of companies, such skepticism is misplaced. They really are seeking to do good.

This raises some penetrating questions: How can we know that a company’s corporate social responsibility isn’t just for show; that it’s motivated sincerely? Where is the heart and soul of YOUR company? Framing the question differently: What keeps your company from single-mindedly pursuing profit maximization and, in so doing, enabling societal disintegration? Surely, the law isn’t enough: loopholes provide ample opportunity for uncaring people to tear the fabric of society – or neglect it – if doing so seems to aid profitability. And fear of bad publicity isn’t enough: it often seems easy to hide and dodge responsibility for a company’s callous disregard of what is beneficial for society.

The heart and soul of a healthy company ought to move it to look beyond bare legal compliance and avoidance of bad publicity; and beyond the CEO’s personal preferences. We’d submit that in such matters, voice should also be given to employees who care. If nothing else, opening the dialogue will provide corporate decision-makers richer peripheral vision for prioritizing projects for the greater good.

Increasingly, employees across the spectrum of beliefs (including atheists) say they care deeply about doing good – something meaningful. They’re not automatons motivated solely by money. When employees are freed to connect their faith and core beliefs in ways that enable the company to do good in the world, they get energized. Their lives are enriched. And the world is made a bit more civilized, a bit more caring.

We hope you’ll join the companies that are increasingly listening to the heart and soul of their employees; companies that are making a positive difference in the world through ventures of Corporate Social Responsibility, aided by the insights and energetic goodwill of a spectrum of employees who care.

Love and the Core Values of Religious Freedom

21 Apr, 2021

by Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

A young mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer at an advanced stage. Her family prayed for healing, as many families would do. Her father, however, prayed a different prayer. He came back to the family and said he knew she would be fine.

Some weeks later the cancer was gone. Completely gone. A miracle. His wife asked him how he was so sure that she would be cured. He said that he’d prayed that the cancer would come to him and spare their daughter. That same year, cancer claimed his life.

The beginning point for core values, for me, is such love. Not that I can say that I would have prayed that same prayer, but a love that lays one’s life down for others is the touchstone for all values.

In my faith tradition, a scripture passage quoting Jesus captures this:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

The call of love is even more challenging. In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:43-44, 46a)

Such love is the beginning point for a robust approach to religious freedom. From that flows three core values.

First, religious freedom begins with our neighbors’ religious freedom, not our own.

In The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Violence in the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press 2011), we noted that an important indication of religious freedom in a country is when people consider that religious freedom for others is as important as religious freedom for themselves.

In analyzing data from the Pew Research Center, there was on average a 14-point “religious intolerance gap” between the number of people who consider freedom for “their own religion” very important and the number who consider freedom for “religions other than their own” very important. That is the space where religious freedom withers.

From my own faith perspective, this makes sense. The two greatest commandments are to fully love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). And when a cheeky lawyer challenged Jesus about who is our neighbor, Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). It’s the story of foreigner with a foreign religion showing love and mercy to a gravely injured stranger who was striped and left to die in the middle of a road as his religious compatriots passed him by.

Put another way, helping people of other faiths and beliefs have full religious freedom is the road to religious freedom for oneself as well.

Second, judge not lest we be judged.

The religious intolerance gap mentioned above is not the only threat to religious freedom, so is the religious hypocrisy gap. Any successful program of religious freedom must bridge this gap by first, as Jesus said, “Take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

In a recent talk by Sue Warnke at the 2021 National Faith@Work Conference, she shared how business students at a major secular California university were immediately drawn into a positive discussion of workplace religious freedom when she began by acknowledging the harm religion has done in some people’s lives.

In other words, defending religious freedom is not the same thing as defending religion.

Third, make peace as first recourse rather than litigate.

“Blessed are the meek … the merciful … the peacemakers” are part of the Beatitudes that kick off the Sermon on the Mount. These qualities provide humble and powerful approaches to advancing religious freedom.

Religious freedom is frequently seen primarily as a legal issue, and indeed I work with many lawyers who also work for religious freedom. However, when litigation replaces discussion and the core values espoused in this article, it’s often too late for religious freedom to become a matter of shared consensus. (See Matthew 5:25-26)

One way that I have put energy into this approach is to reach out to and discuss with people in the LGBTQ+ community ways in which religious freedom brings benefit to them. This is perhaps the most sensitive area today, which makes discussion all the more important.

I am not alone in this. Top companies across America ranging from Salesforce to Texas Instruments have found positive interactions are the norm between their Pride employee resource groups (ERGs) and their faith ERGs. For example, at a Salesforce Faithforce event called Multiple Closets, Jewish, Muslim and Christian persons who were also LGBTQ+ shared their personal stories of ‘coming out of both closets’ – both as LGBTQ+ and people of faith. And they simply shared their stories.

When we focus on loving our neighbor without judging and working for peace through meaningful personal discussions, there is much hope for religious freedom.

National Day of Prayer 2021

15 Apr, 2021

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation invites members of employee resource groups  (ERGs) from corporations across America to come together for the 2021 National Day of Prayer.

Prayers and meditations for our nation will be offered by members of faith-and-belief  ERGs from multiple faiths, including the major faiths in America as well as aiming to include a variety of faiths ranging from Native American prayers to Humanist reflections.

People from each faith tradition represented will pray in their fully authentic way, i.e., this is a multi-faith event bringing the richness of each faith’s identity for the common aim of praying for our nation.

To participate, register here

Corporate Partners for this event are welcome! Email with your company’s interest.

The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance on the first Thursday of May designated by the U.S. Congress, when people are asked to turn to God in prayer and meditation. On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a Congressional bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer be declared by each president at a date of his choice. On June 17, 1952, Pres. Truman issued a proclamation for the first Day of Prayer to be held on July 4, 1952. The law was later amended so the day would be on the first Thursday in May as it still continues.


For additional insights on the National Day of Prayer in a pluralistic society, see blog by Kent Johnson.

Why Set Up Faith-Oriented Employee Resource Groups?

13 Apr, 2021

by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


Faith-oriented ERGs provide terrific avenues for employees to connect with, to pray and worship with, and to draw inspiration and encouragement from people of like faith. By officially acknowledging faith as an integral part of diversity, a company sends a powerful message: That people of various faiths are valued for who they truly are. Employees need not go “under cover” with their particular faith. They can truly “be themselves” at work.

If this was all that faith-oriented ERGs accomplished, it’d be worth the effort. But there’s more. In nearly all companies, these ERGs also serve as significant bridge-builders — channels of connection and collaboration across faiths. They accomplish this unifying and reconciling role in ways that do not dilute or compromise participants’ personal commitments.

Both roles can be positively transformative.

One of the many terrific panels at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation’s 2021 Faith@Work ERG Conference was entitled “Why set up an ERG? Because my colleagues’ beliefs matter to me.” Diverse speakers from SAP, PayPal and Dell Technologies shared how connections across religious traditions have enriched their work lives and helped them live out their respective faiths more authentically. Their personal stories and experience included:

  • — Becoming “visible” to one another; learning what colleagues consider their core identity
  • — Dispelling myths and defusing fears about various faiths
  • — Promoting authenticity
  • — Learning of various faith-rooted holidays, festivals and commemorative times
  • — Engaging other worldviews
  • — Reaching significant depth of mutual understanding
  • — Strengthening mutual respect, without compromising their own faith
  • — Transcending polarization
  • — Becoming better colleagues and better friends
  • — NOT feeling weird

Below you can watch the speakers speak firsthand about how it’s playing out in their companies.

Near the end of this panel discussion, it’s noted that the societal impact of these ERGs extends far beyond the companies’ walls. It reaches worldwide. This really MATTERS.

If your company hasn’t yet embraced faith as part of its diversity focus, consider prompting it. Those who have done this can help. The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation is also a wealth of knowledge and experience. We hope you’ll consider it.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brian Grim named to Board of Advisors of Notre Dame Law School’s new Religious Liberty Initiative

13 Apr, 2021

Dr. Brian Grim, president and founder of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has been named as a member of the Board of Advisors of the University of Notre Dame Law School’s new Religious Liberty Initiative. Grim will serve for a four-year term, through 2025, with the possibility of renewal.

G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, invited Grim to join the Board of Advisors “as one of the foremost leaders on religious freedom and economics.”

As a Board of Advisors member, Grim will participate in the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit, scheduled for June 28th-29th, 2021, at Notre Dame in Indiana. In 2022, the plan is for this Summit to be held in Rome, Italy, July 19th through 22nd, at the Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway near the Colosseum. The following year, the aim is to hold the Summit in Jerusalem, at the Notre Dame Tantur Ecumenical Institute.

Notre Dame Law School launched the Religious Liberty Initiative in June 2020. The Initiative seeks to address threats to religious liberty in the United States and abroad, by promoting more religious liberty scholarship, coordinating events for thought leaders in this space, and launching a new Religious Liberty Clinic.

Stephanie Barclay, Associate Professor of Law, directs Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Initiative. Through this program, students defend religious freedom for individuals of all faiths. Students advise clients outside of the courtroom, as well as pursue their claims in the trial courts and appeals up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brian Grim named to CVS Health Faith-based and Business Leaders Advisory Council

13 Apr, 2021

Dr. Brian Grim, president and founder of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has been named as a member of the CVS Health Faith-based and Business Leaders Advisory Council. He will serve for a two-year term, through 2022.

The Advisory Council emerged as a CVS Health strategic priority to build a strong alliance of faith and business leaders to help advance the mission of their social justice and equity initiative. The Council will support vital actions that are needed to address social justice and equity issues related to health, workforce and education. CVS Health believes that a collaboration of diverse talents, shared values and purpose will revitalize and strengthen communities for the greater good of all.

The Advisory Council is comprised of faith and business leaders that represent the following key strategic areas:

• CVS Health Business Leaders • National Faith-based/Business Associations • National Religious Organizations • Local Congregations • Local Ecumenical or Interfaith Agencies • Charitable Aid Organizations • Seminaries and Higher Education • Hospitals and Health Foundations • Diverse Community Ministries

The role of the Advisory Board consists of information sharing and providing strategy, advocacy, problem-solving and feedback. CVS Health will undertake groundbreaking opportunities within the faith-based sector to reach underserved communities, train returning citizens and reduce health care disparities, with the assistance of this team’s guidance.

Faith-based Stakeholder Advisory Council Responsibilities include:

  • • Assist with building broad support and participation for the CVS Health Faith-based and Second Chance (SJE) Initiative.
  • • Build upon new directions and opportunities for Workforce, Education and Health programs within the underserved and disenfranchised communities.
  • • Address critical issues and help bridge the gap in services and support for vulnerable communities.
  • • Offer advice, counsel and insights into customizing programs to serve local congregations and Second Chance populations.
  • • Assist with collecting data through surveys, questionnaires and focus groups, etc., to define present needs in determining new opportunities. Respond to data and make recommendations.

A History of Faith Engagement

CVS Health has had faith partnerships through the years. For more on the rationale, watch the discussion by Olivia Lang, Director of Workforce Initiatives for CVS Health, who spoke as part of the panel discussion “Business Success in a Religiously Diverse World.” Mrs. Lang discussed how attention to religious diversity and inclusion within the company is also reflected in community business opportunities. The event was cosponsored by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center, and Tanenbaum (see video).

Danger! Danger! And HOPE!

10 Apr, 2021
by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation

Part of the blog series, Authenticity & Connection


Regardless of where you stand on the ideological or spiritual spectrum, “DANGER!” is the message you hear from your friends, your social media and your news outlets. And if you suggest that a particular danger is overstated, you risk being labeled “naïve,” or a “denier,” or a “traitor,” a “hater,” or something worse… and you risk getting cut off from your group. If your company speaks up on a particular social issue, it draws flak from the other side. If your company fails to take a public stand on the issue, it’s criticized for enabling an evil power structure by its silence. And what will happen to you if you express reservations about your company’s public stand? It all feels very dangerous.

But there’s hope.

Want a quick, simple answer that will yield harmony in every case? Sorry; not this week. But I will offer some hope. Kindly bear with me and extend to me the benefit of doubt for a few moments as you read this.

First, let’s talk about common ground. We at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation have seen the following five core principles working well and harmoniously to unite diverse employees throughout the world. One might argue about the implications of these principles in given situations, but their core message is embraced by people across the spectrum of faith and belief. The following five basic principles form a solid starting point:

Digging deeper, in previous blog posts I’ve reflected on the following issues that relate to the fear of DANGER:

Let’s go a bit further today.

Many doubt that heartfelt connection can be achieved across ideological, racial, religious, and political divides in our workplaces. It seems that people on “the other side” only pretend to listen to our concerns; that they don’t really care about “people like us.” Having grown cynical about the possibility of warm, sincere connection in a diverse workforce, many have concluded that the only way to guard against infringement of their rights is by exercising power over those who are different.

Perhaps we’ve been egged on by our respective interest groups to distrust one another. Perhaps we’ve grown too arrogant and self-righteous to acknowledge that others’ concerns about us might have some merit. Perhaps those other people are really evil (though I hope we’ll be especially careful about making that judgment). In any case, these doubts and fears present a big problem in our workplaces.

Consider the implications of these doubts and fears going forward. Fact is, we’ll always have differences and diversity. Today’s trends point to greater workplace diversity going forward. Whenever we force others – against their will and beliefs – to behave and speak the way we want them to behave and speak, we multiply these doubts and fears. Unless we find ways to connect without forcing conformity, we’re headed for endless, bitter power struggles. We need to find a way to escape this downward spiral.

I suggest we approach this problem through pathways that are often sidestepped in the workplace.

Many people of diverse faiths, and atheists, affirm and welcome the possibility of heart transformation. They acknowledge not just that others might come to believe what they believe, but also that they themselves can be enlightened and transformed further so as to better worship their god, to better love their colleagues, and to better conform their own hearts and actions to divine will and to reality. They believe that a movement of the spirit can replace bias and hatred with genuine warmth; even that their own hearts may need turning. They see that a movement impelled by external force has the undesirable effect of stirring resentment and fortifying the walls that separate us.

Steps to Strengthen Culture

This belief in the possibility and preferability of heart transformation spurs some to take culture-strengthening steps:

Every day, our workplaces – including our virtual workplaces – provide a terrific platform for constructing community and connection. Every day, we can resist the many swirling currents of culture that would divide and influence us to fear one another. We can overcome these destructive currents, provided that we don’t require that our coworkers agree with us as a precondition to building a deeper relationship. This can happen step by step. It can be instigated unilaterally. It needs to happen every day. Person to person.

There’s common ground here. Step out in faith, take the risk of crossing over to connect with others, and stand amazed as your corporate culture is transformed for the better, not by force, but willingly, and by love. This is a profoundly spiritual movement. It’s happening all across the world even as you read this blog. We’ve seen it.

So do not fear. There is danger… but there is hope. Join the conversation on LinkedIn.

We all have something to say — so why don’t we allow each other to say it?

1 Apr, 2021

How do we improve our dialogue? Rethinking is a start

By Steven A. Hitz

Originally appeared in Deseret News on March 29, 2021. Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide. Launching Leaders, a partner of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, has engaged participants in 43 countries on six continents through a faith-based personal leadership curriculum which empowers participants everywhere.

In a world of many voices, many of them on high octane, it seems the silent space between dialogue no longer exists. You know, that space where you actually ponder to consider another’s opinion before defending your own? That space.

We live in a precarious culture, with a cry for diversity of opinion and a hope for union diametrically opposed, but both yearned for. Conversations of give-and-take, back-and-forth, much like a tennis match, have become a game of aces only. If you can’t serve an ace, you pack up your racket and go home. Or if your opponent serves an ace, you pack your racket and go home. What kind of a game would it be without all of the plays between aces? So much of the game is left on the court.

In regard to this culture of limiting voices, we ought to rethink a few truths. Let me explain using this analogy of painting. We need to be able to put paint on the canvas of our choosing, while everyone else observing our canvas waits to offer their opinion until our painting is complete. We can’t color our lives with just three colors and enjoy the diversity of opinion and life we all seek. If we don’t mix colors, we don’t get it right.

Imagine if we could all have a full pallet of colors to choose from, mix them up in our conversations, and not have others take away our brushes or paint mid-way through the rendering. How many masterpieces are left on the painter’s easel, never to be viewed in their full expression or intended outcome?

I recently observed two very prominent figures debate over Britain’s Royal Family—one an American and one a Brit—considering Prince Harry’s and Duchess Megan’s decision to move forward in a different direction. The debate was immediately after their interview on national television with Oprah Winfrey. One voice was espousing privilege, and another racism and political suppression. One argued royal norms of protocol should have been accepted while another sided with their choice to not be subject to those norms.

What fascinated me was not so much the content of the debate—-but the style of the debate. No screaming or abrupt ending to the conversation if it wasn’t going their way. In fact, the most impressive thing of all was at the conclusion of the debate when one of the parties said something like “I respect your view—in fact, I am siding with you after hearing you articulate the topic. I could never have understood my own opinions clearly without you helping to shape the narrative in a different way. You have won me over. Thank you for that.”

Wow! My wife and I had the same opportunity to debate the same topic. I totally changed my view after listening to her respectful disagreement with my opinion and offer her respectfully articulated differing opinion.

We all have something to say—so why don’t we allow each other to say it? Whether you believe Dr. Suess was a communist racist or a defender of anything but those things, we ought to be able to digest the argument and make our own opinions. This is a crucial element of freedom that is being threatened in our current lack of respectful dialogue—wherever we stand on the topics.

I wonder if most of us don’t yearn for the same objectives; safe shelter, provisions for our needs, belonging and purpose, and a sense of identity?

In order for us to achieve these objectives (assuming we all desire these same basic things), and since we are at a point of not considering the space of differing opinions, I suggest we learn how to “rethink.” Obviously, this is harder than one might assume. Otherwise, why would we have protests that turn into riots and folks pushing to cancel lived history as if it never happened?

In his great book titled Think Again, author Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at The Wharton School, offered three steps to consider:

(1) Develop the habit of rethinking

“Most of us take pride in our knowledge and expertise, and in staying true to our beliefs and opinions,” observes Grant. That makes sense in a stable world, where we get rewarded for having conviction in our ideas. The problem is that we live in a rapidly changing world, where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking.”

When we are challenged in our thinking, Grant says we slip into one of three modes: Preacher mode—you marshal arguments and deliver sermons to prove the other party wrong; Prosecutor mode—you try to highlight the flaws in the other person’s reasoning; or Politician mode—you attempt to win people over to your way of thinking (sometimes irrespective of the facts).

Grant emphasizes the fourth and most productive mode is to enter the Rethink mode – where you allow the facts to drive your conclusions, not your personal preferences. Not unlike scientific studies, which test a hypothesis to conclusive results, our rethinking mode can allow this type of free and unbiased thinking, though over time it may change.

(2) Always calibrate your confidence levels

Sometimes we can become blind to our blindness and not recognize we do have blind spots in our opinions. Sometimes its pride, or tradition, or “that’s just how it has always been” type of thinking that limits our opportunity to leave our perceived confidence levels to move to higher ground. In allowing ourselves to calibrate our confidence levels, we leave the armchair quarterback behind (where we second guess everyone else’s performance) and stop suffering from imposter syndrome (where we present our confidence as if reflected by everyone else). Most importantly, Grant says, our recalibration of our confidence allows us to foster humble confidence, which is key to rethinking our opinions.

(3) Actively invite others to question your ideas

I’m an author, and asking my editing team to sift through every word I write is painful. While the editing process is painful, it has caused me to bury my pride and to realize that rethinking what I have written will eventually allow my true opinions to be further developed and articulated in a much better way. It allows readers to rethink also and to imagine differently. Rethinking allowed the Wright brothers to move from bicycle makers to flying the first airplane. It was painful for them to confront each other and question each other’s ideas. We need to remember that those who challenge our ideas are not our enemies and invite others to question our ideas and assumptions.

I believe we can shine light on our shared desires by embracing the opinions of others in a healthy way. We can play the entire game of life, and not walk away when either receiving or giving served “aces.” We can create masterpieces, allowing all colors to mix and bless the pictures we see. We can reestablish the sacred “silent space,” pondering before reacting. We can hone the skills of rethinking which allow others to either change our opinions or use this process to allow our original opinions to settle upon us. We can thank those who have challenged us for fostering the environment which allows us to either change or stay the same—with dignity.