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Black, White or Gray? 2

When you look at the world, do you see black, white or gray? Seems pretty black and white to me – it’s gray.

Whenever we get together with family, friends or colleagues, inevitably, we talk about current events. And when we talk about current events, we temporarily lose the ability to see the gray. It’s as if we fell into an M.C. Escher print and everything is black and white…and distorted.

Consider these recent events in the news: healthcare reform, immigration reform, high profile murder trials, athletes getting arrested, celebrity addictions, and of course, reality television shows.

When we talk about these issues with other people, everyone has an opinion and for most people, their opinion is not really an opinion after all. It’s the truth. Plain and simple, no question about it. It’s the truth and it’s black and white.

But is it really the truth? Is it really black and white? Or is it just too hard to accept that there are gray areas in almost all aspects of our lives and the issues around us.

Let’s take an easy example (realizing, of course, that by calling it an easy example, it contradicts the very premise of the article but, just work with me on this).

Honey Boo Boo.

Any sane individual would say that it is not right to exploit a child for the gain of parents, a television network, or millions of dollars. It is a crime that this television show is on the air. There is no gray area on this one.

Or is there?

Perhaps the parents are smarter than they appear and are using the money the show makes to give this child a fantastic education. Perhaps they take such good care of her off screen that it balances any harm that the television program creates. Perhaps her life before the show was worse.

See what happens? When gray is introduced into a black and white world, the black and white becomes cloudy. The problem is, most people are color blind to the gray. They only see the black and white.

If you want to improve your work or personal life, you must see the gray. This doesn’t mean that you are compromising your values or relinquishing your beliefs. It simply means that you are expanding your perspective to see beyond the black or white view you currently have.

Before Columbus, the world was black and white…and flat. Before Martin Luther King, Jr., the world was black and white…and mostly white. Before Steve Jobs, technology was black and white…and boring.

This is not to say that some issues are not more black and white than gray. But when we enter into a conversation with black and white on our brain, we fail to see the gray and we don’t honor others who may see the world differently. We don’t have to agree with them nor do we have to compromise our values but when we respect that other people can see the world differently, we create an dignity between us that makes our differences less threatening. And when the differences are less threatening, our similarities prevail.

Do it Well, Make it Fun means being the best we can be while having fun along the way. Seeing the gray helps us do that. And that is black and white.


  • Paula Bolig says:

    Thanks Ron for your black/white/gray lesson. Just two days ago, I had a delightful conversation with my 6 1/2 yr old grandson after we read Dr. Seuss’ “The Butter Battle Book” about the fighting between Yooks and Zooks about buttering bread on the top or bottom. Beside the issue of argument over something so silly, we talked about the benefit of compromise or alternatives to just right and wrong. I thought we could put bread slices buttered top and bottom together for a sandwich. My grandson first stated the buttered-on-top slices were the correct and less messy way to eat. But then he suggested, “But Nana, if the butter was spread on the bottom of the bread, you would taste more butter!”

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