Do you see people as problems to overcome, as disappointments, as enemies? These are question I asked myself after reading the book, “Anatomy of Peace” by the Arbinger Institute. It was written by two men from the Middle east; one Jewish, one Arab, who both lost their fathers to each others “ethnic cousins” in war. If two men who could so easily hate each other can become friends and help others live peaceful lives than there is hope for ANY OF US who want to make a similar choice!
The themes that really jumped out at me in this book are having a “heart at war versus a heart at peace”, the need to justify our actions, and the mistake of seeing others as objects or obstacles instead of people with differing opinions and values. The part about justification was the biggest issue for me. I constantly justify my actions. Whether it is not offering help to someone or refusing to listen to the other side of an argument, those are the times when I justify myself because after all I am right and they are wrong. I can see why we don’t have peace in a world where everyone is so convinced that they are right so they justify that as a reason to force others to change. But if you are convinced without a shadow of a doubt of your rightness and I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt your wrongness, we have nowhere to go. There is no ground for compromise. We cannot find peace if we cannot even acknowledge that the other persons point of view is as valid as ours.
We can choose to honor our feelings or betray them in an attempt to justify. If you see another as less than yourself, you are seeing them as an object. We see situations based on how we feel. So if we feel like someone is treating us badly we see ourselves as the victim, the one who is being wronged which makes us right and which means we must fight against the “enemy”. I must have a heart at peace when interacting with others because that what I want to receive from others. If I only offer OUR world a heart at war than that is what the world will return to me. If you have to justify your actions are they really actions you want to continue doing?
One of my main justifications is that it’s okay if once in a while I am unkind or ignore others because the world is unfair. Bad people have hurt me in the past so I must be weary in the present. This theory that the world reflects back to us exactly what we give it used to sound illogical to me. After all I was not mean to the kids at school who bullied me. I did not ask that man to attack me on campus and all those assorted unfair moments in my memories. What I finally figured out is those specific people were NOT a reflection of me. They had a heart at war and they took their war out of on me because I was there. Unless I want to live in a cabin in the woods isolated from the world I will interact with others and I CANNOT control their actions. Only they can. Yes it is unfair, but that is simply a fact of life. What did the world give back to those people who hurt and tried to hurt me? I don’t know because I went to a new school each year and have not kept track of every bully I encountered, nor did I ever again see the man who tried to attack me at college.
I know the world gives you back what you give it because I personally know people who have been mean to me and others who suffered later in life because of their actions or the actions of someone more angry than them. They never gave up their war inside and their lives were and are filled with unhappiness, unfairness, and blindness to new ideas. I also know how the world works because each day that I live with love, compassion, and acceptance is better than the last. I have cured my own depression, I have followed my passion of writing, and I have moved forward from my mistakes and the wrongs of others. MOVING FORWARD is a key component and that does not mean letting people off the hook for their actions, but allowing yourself to heal and allowing others to grow and learn. We all deserve second chances. Now if you have a friend, family member, or romantic partner that hurts you repeatedly than YOU need to keep that person out of your life. LET GO of the war in your heart. They must know that they cannot continue to be part of your life, but that you do not hate them, AND you hope they seek out help and grow into a better person.
It all boils down to our own actions. It is UP TO YOU. If you find yourself with a heart at war then ONLY you are capable of fixing that. “Improvement doesn’t depend on others.” – Yusuf Al-Falah
- How often do you justify your actions by making another person worse than they are?
- What justifications do you use to hold war in your heart?
- Are you willing to let go of those justifications?
- Is it possible that someone you disagree with has a valid reason to feel that way?
- If not, why should they respect your right to have a valid reason for your feelings?
People are not objects or obstacles. Your justifications can stop you from new opportunities. You must decide if you want a heart at peace or a heart at war. Read the book yourself and see what you can learn about solving problems and keeping your heart at peace on www.Arbinger.com.
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