One of my favorite heroes growing up was Robin Hood. I was nurtured on the TV show starring Richard Greene (yeah, showing my age) and later enjoyed reading the stories about Robin and his Merry Men, particularly those in my "Best in Children's Books" that had some really neat artwork. And when I saw Errol Flynn as Robin - well, who wouldn't want to be that cool?
As I grew older, I became interested in the historical Robin Hood and the origins of the stories. This childhood interest may well help to explain my strong interest in history, particularly medieval history, and my hobby as a medieval reenactor.
However, the story of Robin Hood also teaches a lesson in perspective. Most people think of Robin Hood and his band as merry rogues, living a life of freedom and fighting oppression. But let's change the pespective a bit. We ignore the fact that Robin and his men were outlaws, men who made their living by assaulting and robbing travelers. If we look at Robin from the point of view of middle class law-abiding citizens, we might well see a group of ruffians who stole public funds, made the roads unsafe for travelers, and didn't hesitate to discharge lethal weapons at the local authorities.
My intent isn't to denigrate the legend of Robin Hood; he's still my hero and I still love the stories. My point is that is if you change your perspective, you can sometimes see things in a new way. The failure to see both sides of an argument, even if you don't agree with your opponent's view, creates and perpetuates conflict.
Understanding your opponent's viewpoint is the first step to conflict resolution. You don't have to agree with it or surrender your own beliefs but unerstanding what motivates each side of a conflict allows you to find common ground and begin establishing trust. It opens the door to compromise. That is why the strongly-held positions by our political parties is so distressing and counter-productive. With neither side is willing to admit that there is some truth to their opponents' position, there is no possibility of progress.
So the next time you root for Robin Hood or Jack Sparrow or your favorite anti-hero, give just a little thought to how these "heroes" might have appeared to their contemporaries. A small change of perspective can make a world of difference.