I recently listened to a quick-yet-powerful snippet about the difference between alignment and agreement on a podcast, and it sent me off on my own journey of research and speculating. The idea of constant and total agreement felt right to me. I tend to want everyone on the same page all of the time, or else my world feels unsettled. When I heard the word alignment, I pictured proper dance technique or a car in need of a tune-up. I couldn’t stop with just those two words, though. I had to dig into allegiance. Having grown up in a sports family, a military family, a church family, allegiance is in my blood. It’s sacred and it’s serious. I’ve even been told before that sometimes I can be too loyal. So I hit the books (aka the internet). Here is what I found.
a·gree·ment / əˈɡrēmənt/noun – harmony or accordance in opinion or feeling; a position or result of agreeing; the absence of incompatibility between two things; consistency.
al·le·giance / əˈlējəns/noun – loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.
a·lign·ment / əˈlīnmənt/noun – arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.
None of these concepts is good or bad. Words are just words when left alone. It’s how we use them that can either hurt or help. Because these words affect the way we interact with others, they tend to carry weight and burrow themselves into our hearts and minds. Because we can’t pursue them all at once, we tend to lean towards one at the expense of the others. Agreement. Allegiance. Alignment. When it comes to relationships, church dynamics, workplaces, and beyond… what is our aim?
Agreement demands unanimous opinion and feelings of total buy-in. Allegiance requires absolute and unending commitment, and refers to a hierarchy where one person is placed above an another. Alignment is the concept with the least oppressive standards. Appropriate relative position is all that’s needed to move a machine forward – a family, team, or organization. Alignment is the goal.
How do I know this works? Jesus. As a leader, he never once demanded agreement or allegiance from his disciples. The gospels are full of examples of folks asking Jesus questions or even attempting to correct him. He always responded by receiving their feedback and giving them a choice in exchange – to trust his leadership and follow or or not. As a follower, he was honest with God about his feelings as he pursued God’s plan to the cross. The night before he died, he even asked if there might be a way out. But he finished by submitting to his father’s leadership, because he trusted the vision. He chose alignment, and the world was made right again.
If you’re in a position of leadership today, whether it be friends at school who look up to you or children in your home or the team you supervise at work… what is your aim? What are you asking of your people? Agreement, allegiance, or alignment? Why? If you’re in a position of submission today who reports to someone, whether it be a team captain or parents or a pastor or boss… what drives your behavior and thoughts? What are you giving or holding back? Agreement, allegiance, or alignment? Why?
And to both groups, I ask… can you even imagine how much more harmonious and powerful life could be, if we aimed for alignment and didn’t worry about the rest? How freeing would it feel to lead from a place where we didn’t need people to agree all of the time or pledge their allegiance to validate our security and identity? How freeing would it feel to follow from a place where we could simply choose to align our behavior in the direction of those who lead us, even if we disagree with steps along the way?
As woman who lives in both groups on a daily basis, I want to aim for alignment. As a follower of Jesus, I’m grateful for a savior who doesn’t ask for anything else from me. I can choose to participate in agreement or allegiance, for sure, and my life hums with energy when those postures come naturally and easily. But appropriate relative position is enough to transform hearts and families and schools and churches and workplaces, and I want to be a part of that more than anything else.
on a practical note… (aka – great, Rach. but what does this LOOK like at school or work or church or in my marriage and friendships?)
- you can trust God and still be mad
- you can disagree with a strategy and still go along with the plan
- you can delegate a chore that you will have to redo later
- you can bite your tongue
- you can ask questions
- you can be bored
- you can be patient
- you can encourage others
- you can hope for change
- you can stay the course
- you can dream about the future and still cheer for the present
- you can think you’d do it better and still follow
- you can be honest with your feelings
- you can be loud about submitting
- you can pray
- you can pray
- you can pray
*DISCLAIMER – all of these concepts assume nothing unethical, illegal, dangerous, immoral, etc. etc. etc. is taking place in your current situation