Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creating Allies Versus Antagonists–When Ego Makes the Choice

He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. - Edmund Burke

Remember that when you meet your antagonist, to do everything in a mild agreeable manner. Let your courage be keen, but, at the same time, as polished as your sword. - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

As the dusts settles from the Alberta by-elections, a children’s story comes to mind regarding how certain parties executed during the election and the results that they produced.  The story goes like this.

There was once a hen and a pig who were thinking about starting a breakfast restaurant together.  “Let’s call it Ham and Eggs”, said the hen excitedly.  “That’s no good”, replied the pig sadly.  “Why not?”, asked the hen.  “Well”, sighed the pig, “You are only participating in it while I am fully committed.”

The story came to mind as I reflected on how people who are fully committed to an endeavour tend to make smarter choices about whether they create antagonists or allies in their day-to-day execution because they have much more to lose if they choose poorly.

In the case of the by-elections, I had had interactions with the Alberta Party in the past and believed them to be a genuine voice of change, representing a non-hyped, data-focused leader of change that the Province (and other jurisdictions for that matter) needed.

In the public debate that occurred, I mused about how Greg Clark, the leader of the Alberta Party, appeared to win the debate.  I tweeted such during the debate and wrote about it later here - Greg Clark–A Refreshing Change Or Just Another Politician?

However, in subsequent interactions with Stephen Carter (his lead strategy person for the campaign) and before I made a decision regarding the Alberta Party one way or the other, Mr. Carter, without caring who he was speaking to, decided that I served better as an antagonist rather than an ally (or at least leaving me neutral at best).

With taunts regarding how much I did for others (or not) without any knowledge of my service to others and in providing flippant answers to serious questions (which I wrote about in Greg Clark–Politicians and the Importance of Optics), it appears that his ego and his belief that a win was “in the bag” invited him to discard myself and others as potential allies and in doing so, invited us to become potential antagonists instead.

Observing the traffic in social media, it appears that the Alberta Party’s selection of Mr. Carter’s raw online style backfired, drawing the desired attention but also creating a large pool of antagonists who may not have cared otherwise about the Party had it not been for how he interacted with people. I realized when people were actively campaigning against the Alberta Party because they believed it to be the Arrogant Stephen Carter Party that something had gone amiss with the Party’s strategy.  In certain groups, such as in schools, the actions of some of the Party’s faithful would have been considered bullying – hardly the role model for young people.

How large an issue this was in regards to the final result of no wins for the Alberta Party will largely depend on who you ask.  Whether the Party will be honest in its post mortems will also be a large matter of conjecture.

However, it causes me to stop and reflect upon how we choose our antagonists, enemies and allies, not only in politics but in Life.

Sometimes we may not be able to secure a person, people or organization(s) as an ally but we would do best not to awaken them as our antagonists also.

Because while the Burke quote at the beginning of this blog post may generally be true, the strengthening of our nerves and skill that is produced by antagonists is only apparent when the ego is such that it allows such learning lessons to be acknowledged and absorbed.

Otherwise, people just end up creating scenarios of themselves versus the world and in such cases, it is always better to bet on the world.  In other cases, they just end up bitter as illustrated here in this delightful quote from

Despair.Com - Bitterness: Never be afraid to share your dreams with the world, because there's nothing the world loves more than the taste of really sweet dreams.

The Bottom Line

Life has enough complexities as it is and there are many times when we wished that there were more powerful people in our corner.

In such situations, I think we are better off choosing our allies carefully, lest our thoughts, words and actions produce the exact opposite effect, creating antagonists or enemies when we least need them.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS In the blog post Answering The Cry For Help, I referred to the true story of a predator who was assaulting and in some cases, extorting things from women once they had been put in compromising situations.

The warning of choosing enemies wisely extends in these situations also.  People who exist to hurt others shouldn’t forget that they will eventually run into someone more powerful than they are and that their actions are creating very powerful enemies that will eventually produce justice.

It’s only matter of time.

Our thoughts, words and actions produce a steady stream of allies, antagonists or people who are neutral to us.

We must choose wisely in order to maximize the nature of the people we create around us.  They will, after all, often decide the result that we produce in our Life.

We should choose as if our Life, personal or professional, depends on it.

Because it does.

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