Horizontal Hostility is an odd little thing, don’t you think?
This is where people can share a fundamental point but part ways over a small detail.
Unfortunately, I have seen many examples of this.
One of my favorites comes from church.
See, there are two main baptist churches in the town I went to high school in: First Baptist and Trinity Baptist.
First Baptist Church was obviously first, but talking to a few old-timers, years ago, I learned the truth of how Trinity Baptist Church came to be…
You know what it was? Smoking.
As the 20th century wore on, smoking became less and less socially acceptable. Some churchgoers viewed it as a sin, and others simply didn’t want to give up a relaxing lifelong habit.
So half the members of First Baptist left and formed Trinity so they could belong to a church that was less strict about smoking.
They agreed on probably 99% of their theology and 100% of everything else, but smoking drove them apart forever.
And good-grief how many other little things like this have fractured churches, businesses, relationships?
Losing the forest for the trees…
We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart. According to Dartmouth psychologist Judith White, a lens for understanding these fractures is the concept of horizontal hostility. Even though they share a fundamental objective, radical groups often disparage more mainstream groups as impostors and sellouts. As Sigmund Freud wrote a century ago, “It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them.”
-Adam Grant, Originals