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Ambivalence, ăm-bĭv′ə-ləns, noun

  1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
  2. Uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow.
  3. Mixed feelings or emotions; uncertainty or vacillation in making a choice.


Whether we’re aware of it or not, most of us view ambivalence as a mindset to be avoided.  Decades of research have shown that holding both negative and positive attitudes simultaneously about something makes us uncomfortable and anxious.

More often than not, ambivalence is regarded as a weakness that causes unnecessary conflict.

That’s why most people are motivated to resolve their ambivalent feelings and take a stand one way or another.  This is especially true for emotionally charged issues like abortion and the death penalty.

The pandemic added topics such as returning to the office and vaccinations to this list where we feel we must pick one side or the other.

Embracing Ambivalence

There are times, however, when we subconsciously create and embrace ambivalence in an effort to protect ourselves.

When we want something dearly but fear we won’t get it — a dream house, say, or a new job — we shield our egos from future disappointment by playing down the desired object’s positive aspects and focusing on its potential downsides.  We tell ourselves that the dream house might actually be too big or that the dream job might be too stressful.

Ambivalence in Business

How business leaders and employees feel on the inside, however, isn’t always aligned with what they share with others.  People often hesitate to share their ambivalent emotions with colleagues, fearing they’ll appear emotionally vulnerable.

But emerging research suggests that being a relentlessly positive leader may not be the best approach.

For example, sharing emotional ambivalence in cooperative relationships can unlock the type of problem-solving that makes everyone better off.  This transparency around mixed emotions inspires others to get creative and develop flexible plans that could work for themselves, their team, and the company.

Cooperative, interdependent, and relatively egalitarian organizations set the foundation for harnessing emotional ambivalence.  These are the environments where it’s seen as an invitation to collaborate and solve problems together.  As a result, ambivalence becomes engaging, inclusive, and democratic.

In short, as a business leader or entrepreneur, it is okay to be torn on which action to take and then allow this indecisiveness to drive your team to take action.

The Bible

Christians, however, don’t have such a luxury.

1 Samuel 7:3 says,

And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Matthew 6:24 says,

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.

And James 4:4 says,

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

The Christian truth is the truth of God, through Jesus Christ the Living Word.  This truth is our weapon against lies and falsehood.  Through it, we can discern and decipher truth from lies.

Hebrews 4:12 goes on to prove this point:

“For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

There is no room for ambivalence for the believer of Christ.

In the world we live in, ambivalence can be used as a tool to empower others to action or to demonstrate humility in leadership by not being the hard-charging leader that many fear.

            But believers are not of this world, and when it comes to issues of the Gospel.  So we cannot be ambivalent when it comes to our faith.  Our Lord God is on the throne, and we are living and worshiping under His authority alone.