I still remember the moment that we became friends.  John Cornish and I had both attended the previous evening’s borough counsel meeting.  The following day, I phoned him from my office.

“So, what did you think about last night’s meeting?” I asked.

Ever the diplomat, John started to stammer….being the Superintendent of Schools, he was accustomed to having to read the positions of many entrenched minds, and put out fires before they started.

“Dammit, John!” I persisted.  “I’m not asking you to AGREE with me,” I said.  “I want to know what you THINK!”

“Oh!!” he exclaimed!   At that exact moment, we became friends.  John went on to explain his position, without reservation, knowing that I admired him as a person.  He could let his guard down and really talk without fearing attack, retaliation, or judgement.  John and I were practicing intellectual stamina.

What is intellectual stamina?  It’s a phrase I’ve coined to describe the “art of learning and understanding BOTH sides of the coin”.  It takes little work to know your own views, a bit more work to argue them. But it takes STAMINA to truly understand the whys and hows of what others have to say.  It means having the strength to approach a situation from a point of non-judgement to learn all facets of the issue.

I see many people suffering from anxiety and depression in my practice.  The current culture throws OPINIONS and judgements in your face from all directions.  Schools are increasingly teaching ONE side of view, while many political groups and news channels are similarly polarized.  Is it any wonder why my clients are anxious, depressed, and in search of help?  Our society has lost the art of discussion, and replaced it with name-calling and blame.  People are feeling fragmented and isolated.

I believe it’s prime time for schools to start teaching intellectual stamina.  In doing so, it will produce people  who are long-willing to understand and slow to anger.  The art of understanding involves discovery and patience, and unearths a commonality between people.  When casting judgement aside, people discover similarities we all have, and sense belonging to a larger group as a whole. This fosters an atmosphere of respect and understanding, where people  can come to a conclusion to sometimes agree to disagree.  It allows appreciation of the self and equally of the other.  That is how compromise is achieved and ultimately how life should be shared.