What does it mean to Stand in the Gap?
The Concept: All around us (and within us) are what I call "gaps." I think of these gaps as the space between two people, two companies, two communities, two beliefs, etc. As the world gets more polarized, these gaps get bigger and bigger. The larger the gaps grow, the more the space in between gets filled with misunderstanding, fear, competition, hate, envy, prejudice, and distrust. When the gaps are this large, it is virtually impossible to see the people on the other side because all we can see is the negativity described above. These gaps, if not closed, can lead to the total breakdown of families, communities, and nations.
If you've ever been in a subway or train station, you've probably seen a sign that says, "Mind the Gap." It's telling you to watch out for the gap and to avoid it. In that setting it is really good advice. Well, I want to challenge that idea when it comes to life. I think that when we see "gaps" in the world around us, it is our job to "Stand in the Gap" and find ways to close them.
Types of Gaps: There are three types of gaps that I focus on.
Horizontal Gaps - A horizontal gap is one that forms between two people or groups of people of about the same standing in the world. Maybe it is two people arguing over a social topic. It could be between two political parties in the same country. It could be between two family members who disagree. Any time there are two entities, there is the potential for a gap to form.
Vertical Gaps - A vertical gap forms when there are two people or groups of people at different
levels in life. For example: rich and poor, boss and employees, majority and minority, etc. These
gaps are caused by a power differential. These are the gaps most commonly seen in businesses
who are struggling with employee retention or employees not following the company leadership.
These gaps are seen in racism or the mistreatment of any minority group. These gaps are the most
dangerous but also hold the greatest opportunity for someone to step in and be a hero.
Personal Gaps - This is the gaps that exists between the person you are and the person
you want to be. Where you are in life right now should not be where you end up because
life is about constant growth and progress. We all know this, but too many of us get
discouraged when we aren't progressing fast enough. Frustration and depression can set
in if we don't actively look for ways to close our personal gaps. Identifying the areas of our
life where we want to grow and then actively working towards improvement can help us
close these personal gaps and feel the joy of accomplishment.
Standing in the Gap - What the world needs is people who are willing to stand
in the gaps and hold space for the people from either side to join them. There is
nothing wrong with being passionate for your beliefs. But there is so much danger
in just standing on one side of the gap and hurling insults across at the other side.
What we need is people who will keep their passionate beliefs and then bring
them to the middle so someone on the other side can bring their passionate
beliefs to the middle as well. At that moment you get two people who can say,
"I don't believe the way you do but I see you as a human being just like me and
we can still work together for the common good." People who are brave enough
to stand in the gap are the people who truly change the world for the better. If you look at most of the great people in history, they have all been people who saw a gap and stood in it until everybody else saw the bigger picture.
How I Fit In - My job is to not only be a professional "gap-stander" but to teach other people how they can be one as well. I do this through a lot of storytelling and metaphor to help people discover the gaps all around them. Once we've recognized them, I teach people how to bring the best of themselves not the gap and then invite others to join them. I've helped CEO's move into the gap between them and their employees. I've helped youth groups move into the gaps between them and their peers. I've helped healthcare providers move into the gaps to help those without access to care. It is my lifelong passion to move into the gaps and teach other people how to join me.
If I can help you or your organization in any way, please reach out!
In a half-day or full-day workshop setting we can really dive deep into the principles and work with your people to identify specific gaps within your organization. You will come away with specific and actionable strategies for closing the gaps in your organization.
My keynote presentation of "Stand in the Gap" is a 1 or 2 hour discussion of the principles with stories of great people in history who have found ways to stand in the gaps they saw around them. This is a fun and fast way to inspire people to work better together towards a common good.
I absolutely love talking to young people. If we can teach them how to be brave and stand in life's gaps now, they will have an amazing foundation for a great and joyful life moving forward. I speak at youth conferences, high school graduations, school assemblies, and anywhere young people want to be!