• May 2015
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Ethical Edge Letters on Integrity  

Click here for Russell Williams' bio

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Dare greatly for the No. 1 worthy cause
What is the power valentine?

“We cannot avoid using power, cannot escape the compulsion to afflict
the world, so let us, cautious in diction and mighty in contradiction, love powerfully.”
— Martin Buber

The power valentine? As you picked out a card for that special one over the weekend, did you browse through Hallmark’s Power Valentine's category? You missed it? Well, that’s OK – it wasn’t there! But if I’ve grabbed your attention to read on, let’s find out if there might be truth to Buber’s words of loving powerfully and find out how it defines meaning in your most personal relationships, as well as in the trust relationships you pursue in your professional life.

What is the power valentine? It involves both imaginative and moral thinking to explore love – not as rich, emotional sentiment, but as the ultimate force for good. Forty years ago, I was introduced to the great Jewish theologian, Martin Buber, and his classic book, "I and Thou." This little gem opened my awareness to distinguish between love as emotion for the few and love as thought expressed to the many. Buber purposefully laid out to the reader the two fundamental relationships: I-It and I-Thou. Now, after many years, I know as fact and life wisdom discovered that I-It relationships create conflict; I-Thous build trust.

Buber described how I-It and I-Thou operate in the mind of every individual. I-It relationships are premised on life transactions in which you see others as objects to manipulate for the purpose of you getting something. I-It focuses on me and what I think I need from you. In contrast, I-Thou relationships are not premised on transaction. Rather, I-Thou encounters are ones defined by respect and dignity – most importantly, how I honor and recognize the innate worth of another. While I-It is perpetually preoccupied with me and mine, I –Thou thinks about the significant other.

So what is love’s power valentine? Be sure, you will never find it in February’s card-seeking pilgrimage. No, this annual love fest is meant to focus our feelings shared for the select few. But, love’s power valentine has its work to accomplish in our thoughts and actions every day as we cultivate strong relationships. In doing so, we stretch the boundaries of what it means to connect, discovering that we have the mental capacity to create trust that produces good outcomes – at home, at work and in the community, for others and for ourselves.

Mission Integrity Action

I focus my internal conversation as I pay attention to how I view work relationships. I observe there are two worlds at play in my thinking and behaving. When I find myself in I-It relationships, I notice it’s about me; when I encounter I-Thou relationships, it’s about the significant other.

Russell Williams,
Passkeys Foundation/Ethical Edge