Jerry Sanders, mayor of San Diego, California, earlier this week changed his political position about gay marriage. I have closely watched the video of his announcement (the link is below).
Many will agree with Sanders’ position and many will disagree. Some may say this was a political stunt on Sanders’ part. For me, all such arguments miss the point.
My intuitive sense in watching the Sanders video is that he was speaking from his heart about a decision he truly found to be a heart-wrenching one to make. As he said, in the end he chose to lead with his heart. My suspicion is that this is a man who dared to do some courageous inner grappling that too few of us allow or trust ourselves to do. The grappling he did was between the ideology to which he subscribes and his heart’s deepest sense of what is right.
Ideologies provide people with a sense of stability and predictability in an unstable and insecure world. When our need for stability and predictability overrules our heart’s deepest truth, deep inner turmoil always results. This turmoil can propel a person into even greater ideological rigidity or into a deeper state of teachability, depending on their inner courage or inner cowardace.
An ideology is simply an imperfect lens through which we attempt to make sense of a world that will always be far more complex than any one ideological lens can capture. Any leader who does not recognize this is a dangerous leader.
When any of us makes adherence to an ideology more important than listening to the voice for love, for our own deepest humanity, we have turned our ideology from our servant into our master. This kind of ideological rigidity is a form of fanaticism, and fanaticism is an illness that corrupts integrity and contributes profoundly to the problems we face in today’s world.
In contrast, having the courage and wisdom to allow our ideology to co-mingle with our deepest sense of love and inner knowing is a doorway to greater integrity. I applaud Jerry Sanders not as much for the position he took as for his courage to undertake the mighty inner battle between his own sense of humanity and his ideological convictions, and, in the process, allowing his ideological lens to be informed and transformed by his sense of humanity.
To me, this is an example of leadership integrity. Our stand on an issue is no measure whatsoever of our leadership integrity. The courage to do our own version of what Sanders did regarding any issues our ideology is in conflict with higher love is one of the measures of leadership integrity. The courage to arrive at whatever positions we arrive at through this kind of humility, rather than through ideological rigidity, is one of the measures of leadership integrity.
I applaud you for your role-modeling, Mayor Sanders.