You Are What You Build

by Melissa Karnaze

“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West—know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

- President Obama, Inaugural Address (Jan. 20, 2009)

How easy it is to attempt to destroy that which opposes what you wish to uphold—instead of spending all your efforts bringing that which you want into existence.

When we define ourselves vehemently by what we are not, we rely on the practice of othering—upholding the positive value of our identity at the expense of another. Identities that rely upon othering are often dishonest, because any group can outcast another one, being guilty of the same or worse things they stigmatize the other group for.

Think of any controversial issue today, with at least two opposing sides of the debate. When one sides jabs at another, are they accomplishing their goals? Of saving lives, extending freedoms, upholding peace, or spreading compassion? Or are they trying to bring the other side down at the expense of lives, freedom, peace, and compassion?

When you fight against what you don’t want—what your identity others as an act of survival—it’s easier for you to lose sight of what you really want, because you become consumed by the fighting.

Define yourself by working toward what you want to create—not by tearing down that which opposes it, because you can only judge yourself by what you can build, not what you destroy.

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