Who Is Your Risky Co-Conspirator?

The person you’re working with matters more than the organization they represent, right? I mean, if you’re building something important that meets a real need, something that might not work and carries some risk for all involved, isn’t character what really counts? If you like your co-conspirator, if you trust her and learn from her, does it matter all that much who she works for?

The community I volunteered with in Northern Ireland often hosted meetings between people from warring sides of The Troubles. Neither of the meeting’s participants could safely tell their own that they were meeting with this other. The trust and respect that undergirded the meeting was threatened by affiliation at every moment. Yet the only reason meaningful change took place there was that some people were willing to risk their own lives to work with people who were affiliated with the wrong group.

I don’t minimize this. People died. Lots of people. The risks were real, and not just to one’s safety, in sitting down across the table from someone whose cause had murdered your friends, as your cause had murdered his. The risk of dishonoring the loss of your own is as real–and as grave–as the other risk, the deadly risk.

I met again yesterday with someone from an organization that doesn’t believe what I and my people do and that some of my peers say I should avoid. But I like him. I trust him. And the things we’re thinking about doing feel important.

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