Have you ever flipped through a magazine or scrolled through a foodie blog, saw a recipe and thought about trying to make it yourself? Can’t be that hard, right? Just follow the recipe.
What in the world is tahini? (And what are you supposed to do with the rest of the jar??) What if you’re allergic to eggs or gluten? Will the substitutes work just as well? And, um, what if you did gently fold in the dry ingredients, but it all turned out lumpy anyway?
I recently wrote about the recipe for independence, listing out a few key ingredients for how the United States became an independent nation. I’d like to follow up and talk a little bit about how things don’t always turn out the way we expect, no matter how hard we might try to follow the recipe. But all is not lost. Like any expert chef or baker knows, if you understand what each ingredient does, you can figure out how to make the right adjustments so that it’s good enough to eat.
Let’s talk about unity. As one of my readers pointed out in better detail, there was definitely not complete unity among the colonists. There were plenty of those who remained loyal – the loyalists – to the British crown. There were also the pacifists who were against any kind of revolution. And I feel remiss if I did not mention the Natives who were intentionally left out of the conversation. In a recent conversation with my mom, she also pointed out that African Americans were also not consulted in the forming of our nation. I would add that at that time, there were already many who felt that slavery had no place in our new nation and wanted to include a statement in the Declaration objecting to Britain’s import of such a practice. It didn’t make it into the Declaration because of other agendas, but it is interesting to note.
But when you lack the ingredient of perfect unity, and you don’t have a whole lot of time to develop more, you make do with what you have. Most movements, causes, things that move us forward rarely enjoy perfect unity. There are always reluctant members, people who raise objections and hold back. There are those who completely disagree and openly oppose our revolutionary ideas.
And, that’s a good thing.
If we only ever had perfect unity, we would likely plunge full steam ahead right off of a cliff. It’s the thoughtful objections, the groups that oppose and halt progress that keep us balanced. We need to keep our ideas and energies in check. We need to make sure we really do know what we’re doing and have appropriately planned for future eventualities. Among the founders themselves were many who completely disagreed with each other! We can be different, even disagree, and still be united.
A lot of that likely depends on how we’re negotiating.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and, after several hours, you feel like you’re getting nowhere? You may blame the other person for not listening. But have you ever questioned your negotiation skills?
Negotiation, by definition, is a discussion aimed at reaching agreement. It does not mean proving that the other person is wrong. It means looking for things you can agree on quickly and using them as a foundation for solving points of disagreement. It means listening and looking for angles to reach compromise where compromises can be made. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely an ingredient the founding fathers used a lot.
What happens if we’re lacking the amount of an ingredient the recipe calls for? I think about the courage and intrepidation the founding fathers and revolutionaries had to have in order to be successful. It reminds me of how yeast is used in recipes. Yeast is an ingredient that, given the right temperature and nutrients, can actually grow. I imagine that courage and intrepidation is similar. When some show enough courage and conviction, that feeling can grow both within a person as well as spread to others. If it’s not properly fed it can fizzle out. If it’s fed too much it can take over and ruin the whole thing.
Imagine how intimidating it is when a group of courageous and intrepid people band together and start pushing for some new idea. If that movement and courage isn’t balanced with building trust, then people stop following – stop listening. Trust is built with patience and is an ingredient that takes time to develop. Yes, you actually have to whisk for 10 minutes. No, you can’t do it for 1 minute and hope for the same result.
Education, I think, is one of the most misunderstood ingredients. Education is a blend of several things designed to help people use new and known information by showing them how to apply it. Education raises awareness while building necessary skills. Education provides opportunities to practice what is being preached. It builds up and builds upon personal experience.
The last ingredient is determination. Yes, we will have times when we realize we don’t have all the right ingredients for what we’re trying to make. We may be half-way through and realize we’ve been using tablespoons instead of teaspoons. But we don’t give up. We make adjustments, we compensate where we can, we substitute when we have to, we keep trying.
And if we at least make an effort to utilize all of these ingredients…
… that’s good enough.