Us vs. Them: The Enemy Lies Within

Hey you! Don’t help them to bury the light. Don’t give in without a fight

I would like to introduce you to a mysterious voice who will guide us through a brief tour of group dynamics and their impact on human relationships. The voice can be referred to simply as, “P.” 

Several statements will be provided throughout this article directly from this source.

We thank “P” for sharing all of this great insight.

This voice of “P” is anonymous and fortunately, if you listen, all of your problems will be solved. If you ignore “P,” bad things will happen, so you had better listen up!

“Me and you. And God only knows, it’s not what we would choose to do.” – “P

Unlike other random, anonymously touted movements that come from dark corners of the internet, “P” does not claim the ability to predict the future or to expose grand conspiracies among the rich and powerful. 

P” exists merely to provide a pleasant, temporary ‘deep dive’ into human group identity and the power it has to divide us. 

Us and Them

Do not worry. This is not a cult. After reading this, you will be left alone. You will not be sucked into a vacuum of anti-intellectual that will destroy your relationships with close friends and family.

That is a promise, directly from “P.” So, let’s get going.

Feeling up for a challenge?

“Black and blue. And who knows which is which, and who is who?” – “P

Humans are known to crave social attention and tend to feel happiness and fulfillment when connecting with others. This is true of family, friends, and sexual partners; but it is also true of identity group affiliations. 

Here is a quick and easy challenge that has immense and immediate rewards, in exchange for very little effort (for most people). In order to complete the challenge, you must do the following:

First, choose the most relevant prompt below:

  • If you tend to vote Republican, say as many nice things as possible in 10 seconds about the Democratic party platform. Write it down, if you would prefer.
  • If you tend to vote Democrat, say as many nice things as possible in 10 seconds about the Republican party platform. rite it down, if you would prefer.
  • If you tend to vote Independent, in 10 seconds, say one nice thing about each. rite it down, if you would prefer.

How did you do? Could you come up with 3? 2? 1? None? 

Recognizing Truth

“Run, rabbit, run. Dig that hole, forget the sun. When at last the work is done. Don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one.” – “P” 

Have you ever had a leader who encouraged you to say something nice about those with whom you disagree? Perhaps it was a parent, a mediator, or a random person who felt like being a smart-ass (I have done this and had it done to me). 

Ever done this as a leader? If so, depending on the circumstances, maybe it was annoying, maybe it was helpful. This can be challenging but we know that when the battle lines between tribes are drawn, it can be challenging to see the merit or even the humanity within other groups.

“And the front rank died. And the general sat. And the lines on the map moved from side to side.” – “P


P” believes that there is a bit of truth in everything that people say. However, it is up to each of us to use our power of rational discernment and goodwill to form the most reasonable opinions and judgments possible. 

This task has more to do with spirituality than it does logic. Unfortunately, sinister forces have been working to divide us. 

But “P” knows better. Extremism is not the answer. We all must take the moral responsibility to apply grace to the motivations of others. This means that we must resist the temptation to jump to the harshest conclusion about the intentions of those with differences of opinion.

“There’s someone in my head, and it’s not me.” – “P

It is better to assume positive intent than to instinctively berate, or label people. Unfortunately, the latter approach has become more popular in recent years due to the rise of the internet, social media, and identity politics.

Common-Humanity and Common-Enemy

“Haven’t you heard, it’s a battle of words. The poster bearer cried. “Listen son,” said the man with the gun. There’s room for you inside.” – “P

The dynamic of ‘us vs. them’ is as old as humanity itself. Numerous researchers have examined how group dynamics manifest in human populations.1  What researchers have found is that there is something innate in our humanity that encourages us to associate with people who are similar to us in some way.

One useful way to think about this is that there are two primary ways by which human beings find the motivation to sort into groups. The first is motivated by “common-humanity” and the second is by a “common-enemy.”2

In the case of ‘common-humanity’ group affiliation, we may gravitate toward others with whom we share a commonality. It could be that we root for the same sports team, have a love for seafood, share the same religion, or political views. 

But we can also be creatures of tremendous negativity and cynicism. It seems to be something within our nature. When we view others’ intentions through this lens, it becomes easy to marginalize those who do not fit into our group.

This describes ‘common-enemy’ group affiliation.


In the extreme but not-so-uncommon approach, out-group members can be observed through the lens of dehumanization

This is classic, ‘us vs. them’ and it is a dangerous recipe for social cohesion.

Peace of Mind

“Up and down. And in the end, it’s only round ‘n round.” – “P

Have you ever noticed that when we recognize our common humanity, rather than our differences, a sense of peace quells the derisive forces of the mind? “P” believes that if more people would do this, there would be less inter-group squabbling, less labeling, and more happiness for all.

No matter your religious views, we all recognize that human beings are flawed and often unfair toward each other. We can do our best, but in the end, we will never be perfect. This is true of everyone except those who have been personified as perfect, such as for example, the Christian son of God, Jesus Christ.

Christians know that we cannot become “like-Jesus” ourselves, but making the effort to strive for truth requires more than an overly-simplistic, conventional dichotomy of ‘true and false’ facts. Instead, truth is an abstract concept that is inherently complicated, even unknowable, especially when viewed through the haze of group dynamics. 

Grace unto Others

“I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really, I mean good manners don’t cost nothing do they, eh?” – “P

Sadly, when tribal identities become accelerated by culture, the ‘common-enemy’ approach to the arbitrary battle lines becomes more commonplace. This tactic is alive and well in political circles right now. It enriches politicians, and those who profit from spreading their opinions on political affairs.

These days, the more shocking, controversial, or demeaning toward out-group members a political pundit can be, the more eyeballs, minds, and eardrums will pay attention.

For centuries it has been known that when you cast negative attention onto a common enemy, support within a group can be galvanized. When this happens, we can easily detach from the common humanity that we share.

Too often, hostility, acts of aggression, and outright tragedy ensue.

A Return to Civility

“And everything under the sun is in tune. But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” – “P

The famous Golden Rule can return us back to civility. Every religion defines some version of this rule. Politicians and political actors cannot rescue us because their incentives are backwards.

How we treat each other will always matter more than anything. In times of external chaos, we must turn inward and seek righteousness on our own accord. 

There are no shortcuts. And sadly, members of our own in-group are often poor arbiters of spiritual justice. 

Where there is light, there can be growth, warmth, and joy. Where there is darkness, there is derision, distrust, and chaos. Wherever you find it, you must remain focused.

Which side of the moon are you on? If you grew up listening to Pink Floyd as I did, you may have already noticed that “P” isn’t so anonymous after-all. 🤷

Further Reading:

1 Neuroscientist, David Eagleman has spoken and written about how human beings become empathic and how politicians manipulate us into disassociating with groups that are not in the interest of the politician.

2 The concept of “common-humanity” vs. “common-enemy” group construction is borrowed from Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s description of two different “kinds of identity politics,” from their influential 2016 book, “The Coddling of the American Mind.”

Do you have thoughts on this topic? Please do share them in the comments. If you have feedback on this article, you can write to me here. If you enjoyed this post please consider subscribing below and pass this article along to a friend.

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