Peace not Violence

We have all been in conflict at some time, with someone. Conflict is not unusual. In fact our very individuality is what leads to conflict. Differences in beliefs, values, customs, cultures or opinions are bound to occur because of our unique combinations of personality, intellect, emotions and spirituality.

This is not a bad thing. Conflict however, becomes a problem if we do not learn or know how to manage it. In managing conflict we are able to agree to disagree as the saying goes. Unbridled conflict on the other hand, can easily become unmanageable and lead to violence.

To avoid violence arising from conflict that is not tempered with reason and compassion, we need to resort to a variety of skills and talents, some of which can be taught and learnt.

Image result for attitude love compassion respect humility and peace

Skills to side step violence and lead to peaceful resolutions include critical thinking, thinking before acting, listening compassionately, responding with respect even if you are in disagreement with someone and of course, genuine love for people that overrides the urge to dislike or hate a person because of a difference in opinion.

As Martin Luther King Jr. elegantly put it, “You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

Image result for attitude love compassion respect humility and peace

Adopt an attitude of love, compassion, humility, respect and peace today. Refuse to hate anyone because they are different than you.

 

 

 

Zebra 101, Stark Contrasts!

Perhaps for me the most outstanding memory of being in Cape Town, South Africa, was the extremes between rich and poor. And perhaps most noticeable was that in as much as some things were different, some things were so similar to home.

The stark differences between the townships, like our local Beetham, and the residential areas was heartrending. Particularly when I viewed District 6 a few days later and saw the areas from which the people were relocated to the townships.

Image result for zebra

The cultured speech and bearing of our driver was another contrast as he was well dressed, driving a Mercedes Benz van and going home to his makeshift room in a township.

The townships there in Cape Town consisted of three types of dwellings. There were the houses built by the government, very small and inadequate mind you.  There were the leased rooms  by those who had government houses and there were rented rooms that were like squatters rooms.

The squatters have started building two storey galvanised dwellings as space is definitely a problem in the townships.

My heart was filled with compassion. It is so difficult to see the conditions under which some of us have to dwell. It exists here in Trinidad too. It is so easy to judge others and yet it becomes so difficult to judge when their challenges are considered.

On the one hand though there are people who work hard and honestly to improve themselves and their families. On the other, there are those who turn to crime as a means of survival. What makes one person work assiduously with integrity and another become a criminal?

I was so moved by the performances of some of the young people that we were privileged to witness. We had spoken word performances, singing, musical entertainment, dance and an instrumental performance using buckets and drumsticks only!

Wow!! That is the best sentiment I can offer. Thank goodness my socks were only figuratively blown off. The centre at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was unheated. I was the only person who had on gloves but I was still extremely cold.

The others suffered in silence except for when I was acknowledged as being smart enough to have gloves! They did not know just how unaccustomed I am to the cold!

The dedication, commitment, diligence, skill and talent of those young persons tugged at my heart strings. I literally cried after one dance performance. The pain was so clearly etched on their faces.

The excellence they achieved with solemn, focussed looks on their faces made me feel as one with them. I felt everything they were expressing and so I could not help but cry.

They performed in an elaborate setting with basic equipment and a tee shirt and pair of jeans or other trousers. Another contrast!

Yes! it is easy to choose to be filled with hate and anger and to be unforgiving but surely at some level we can find it in our hearts to find ways to deal with the unfairness and the beastly behaviour of some persons and not choose to hate a person simply because they bear similarity to another who may have caused pain or hurt.

Tell me how can one not be filled with love for fellow human beings when there is so much we have in common, whether white or black, global north or south, rich or poor…

Peace in Turbulent Times

How do we move past the deep wounds of our turbulent times?

How does one deal with sometimes multiple hurts and misfortunes, that accentuate the unfairness of life and circumstances?

How does a mother or father, a sister or brother, a son or daughter find it somewhere in the heart, the mind, the soul, to get to a point of peace after one or more grievances?

Image result for peace in difficult times

When you have been dealt with the murder of a loved one, or the ravaging of your personal belongings or person by attackers and if at the same time, you lose your job or have other financial or health challenges, it becomes difficult to believe in the concept of peace and hope.

I have had to deal with multiple losses after a difficult time in my own life. My challenges were not greater or lesser than anybody else’s. They were my unique combination of trials, designed to shape or re-shape my thinking, my approach to life and my destiny.

It can be easy to lose your way and to stay forever lost. To miss out on the blessings and joys that are further along in your journey because you become stuck in the mire of hurt, pain and a lack of forgiveness.

The truth is that for a while remaining in that dark, messy and confusing place filled with anger and frustration is sometimes the best thing to do…providing that doing so supplies the fuel that is needed to create the driving force to pull yourself out of the downward force of negativity.

If you can come to the point of becoming an alchemist of sorts, turning the negative into shining positivity, then you would have found a peace and hope that becomes a beacon for others who have yet to meet their customised difficulties.

Of course bear in mind that good and bad circumstances in life are juxtaposed for greater appreciation of one over the other. This simply means always be alert that life can bring unexpected good or bad.

Image result for peace in difficult times

So currently in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago, there seems to be a negative cloud of darkness overtaking our people. It seems that there can be no hope. It seems that at every turn there is violence, hatred, racialism, killing and destruction. Peace, love and forgiveness have become difficult concepts to grasp.

How can you tell a mother whose only son is brutally murdered that peace will come? How does she relate to forgiving the beasts in human form that committed that criminal act, forever changing the landscape of her life?

You don’t. At least not now. Not right away. She needs time to process. Time to digest and time to come to some form of understanding. The rest of us need to give her the gift of time to come to terms with what has happened. That time can only be determined by her but we will know when she is ready. She will let us know.

In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to become like the very beasts we wish had never existed. What in their own lives must have molded them into the creatures of destruction that have manifested?

Martin Luther King Jr. and others have postulated that violence breeds violence. True words that are easy to overlook when faced with the harsh realities of murder, rape, kidnapping and other criminal acts.

But we are embarking on an even darker journey if we give in to our base desires for revenge. Violence by “peaceful” men only sends the wrong message to impressionable minds. We must find a peace through doing good not through destroying others, good or bad.

I am not suggesting that you forget the bad but that a way is found to propagate good in the face of evil. Will you stop planting roses or peas because the field is currently overgrown with weeds?

Or will you try to plant the roses or peas in an effort to replace the weeds with the crop?

Maybe not the best comparison but the idea is that peace and goodwill must not be abandoned in the face of seemingly unending negativity.

This morning let us reaffirm our faith in a greater good. Let us pray for a spirit of peace to overcome us all in spite of all the darkness surrounding us.

As we do this, reach out to others in peace and love.

Five ways that we can maintain equilibrium in devastating circumstances:

  1. Allow yourself to experience any feeling to its fullest. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way, at your own time.
  2. Live by the moment. Experience each moment for what it is or what it brings.
  3. Grow into acceptance of what has happened. Not an easy task but a realistic one.
  4. Slowly in your time, reset goals and action plans, short term initially until you get to the point of being able to think in longer time frames.
  5. Get enough rest, nutrition, exercise and hydration. Do not neglect your physical needs. You need to be strong physically so that your body does not collapse inwardly under stress.

Focusing on these five objectives helps to deflect thoughts onto positive pathways, bringing peace where there was only strife, frustration and hurt previously.

Let me know how you dealt with your particular situation or share with me the pain you may be undergoing that seems insurmountable. Someone else may be able to throw the lifeline you need to stay afloat until you can devote and self promote once again.

Yours in faith, peace and education, my friend.

Relationship Tape

What a wonderful metaphor I encountered innocently last week!

One of my students claims that she is very clumsy. This I learnt as I observed that her 12 inch (30cm) ruler was broken and repaired with…scotch tape and her spectacles handles were taped to the frame as they had broken off sometime ago.

As we joked about her clumsiness, a thought hit me. Many things can be broken and repaired simply by applying tape or glue. I myself had broken my cell phone once and repaired it with tape. Many torn pages were held precariously together with tape or staples.

If only it were so simple to mend broken relationships!

Image result for relationship tape

However relationships are formed between living, breathing, emotional beings. We grow into relationships, daily doing things to earn trust, to build rapport, to show support and to demonstrate our love for another human being or for that matter an animal, a pet.

The human ego , the psyche, is extremely fragile. Some more than others. It takes time to forge bonds. They are tested time and time again. And sadly in an instant of volatility, one mistake, one harsh word, one misunderstood emotion or one misstep can cause those carefully crafted to bonds to snap!

Perhaps it is a good thing that this type of breakage is difficult to repair. Had it been easier then less effort and time would be spent on trying to build rather than break down bonds.

What if there was some sort of relationship tape or staple or glue that  could be used to mend a broken relationship or heal a hurting heart?

After we laughed about this direction that our conversation had shifted into, it became clear that there is a way.

Of course nothing worthwhile comes without a lot of hard work. So this “relationship tape” comes through the practices of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

Each one of those is a huge mouthful for anyone. In today’s technologically advanced world, people have become worshipers of the Universe. Alternatively they claim to be atheists or highly open minded so that anything goes. Faith though is integral in any undertaking. We do things not knowing the final outcomes and that in itself is faith.

Spiritual faith gives us a freedom and strength to be able to release perceived or real hurts and helps us to see the good in spite of the bad. It provides for us a foundation of integrity, morals and values that is needed for the development of civility and social consciousness.

Humility, gratitude and forgiveness come with faith. That does not mean it comes easily. We are human and hence imperfect beings. No matter what our religious persuasion or faith may be, practicing these big guns of character definitions is difficult. Difficult not impossible.

By adopting a humble approach, we can see things with new lenses. We can learn to put others before self. Not easy by any standard but with daily practice it becomes more integrated into our behaviours.

Gratitude makes us cast a backward glance and recognize the good that others may have done for us, even the ones who are currently doing something to bring pain. It makes us see the small efforts, not just the large gestures.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult practices. But when we incorporate faith, gratitude and humility into our habits, then forgiveness comes much more easily.

Our “relationship tape” then is formed by the melding together of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

The next time you mend a torn page or stick a broken ornament, remember that relationships can be mended too…with the right “tape”.

 

Violence… a learned behaviour

aggressive-violent-behavior-nature-or-nurture

The response of violence to conflict is, to some extent, a learned behaviour. This statement includes gun violence.

It comes from a place of fear of being a target, fear of living daily with the threat of gun violence and fear of not conforming. That is a lot of fear.

Even before a crime takes place, guns, and the accompanying violence, play a significant part in the lives of those in communities with a reputation of violence.

The outcome of such fear and learned violent behaviour is a lack of respect for the value of life, individual, community and national life.

Those who suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of gun violence all reach to the same place emotionally and mentally.

This congruence of feeling and thought creates a hopeful opportunity. It ought to become the catalyst that gives us the will and courage to address the gun violence that is becoming a part of our daily life.

Religious leaders are casting blame on the lack of coherence of family units for the increasing violence in society.

Alternatively a family may be unified but their environment and learned responses of violence precludes the teaching of respect for anything including life.

One leader has included the availability of drugs and weapons as well as the existence of gangs as factors contributing to the rising violence and incidences of gun related crimes.

All of these are true. The reasons are valid and relevant.

However my aim (no pun intended) is not to cast blame or vent anger or frustration against the system or the perpetrators of violence.

Instead my aim is to amplify the message of the sanctity of life and the kind of respect each one of us needs to have for the life of another.

With every pull of a gun trigger, there emerges a bullet that may hit a living target.

That bullet may penetrate through tissue, tendons, nerves, muscles and bones causing physical damage in the immediate area.

figure8

The kinetic energy of that compact piece of lead disseminates to surrounding organic matter causing further damage not immediately visible.

Similarly, that same bullet penetrates the psyche of the victim and his or her family, friends and associates, tearing their lives apart emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and in other ways.

The ripple effect of that nucleus of destruction is far reaching and has no time limits.

The learned behaviour of violence in response to conflict can be unlearnt. New, more peaceful responses can be learnt which lead to greater respect and harmony.

Your response?

R.A.R.E.

Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence. R.A.R.E. GuV

Paving the way toward peace.  

The two statements above are representative of the work I am about to undertake. The actual title and tagline are still being worked on but soon enough I will get there.

This work ties in with the availability of my third published book, Bounce Back Better, 10(+1) Key Steps for building Resilience. The idea for working to combat the forces that drive violent actions was born at a Global Leadership Summit I attended in Trinidad during October 2016.

I had plans to raise awareness of the plight of victims of gun violence prior to that, through the book, and I had a vague concept of what was needed to be done but, attending that summit brought a degree of clarity that was missing.

In this post, on this new page, I give you the rationale for such action and the nature of my stance i.e. a position of action not reaction, not blame. So here goes.

Sunday January 29th, 2017 will mark the fourth anniversary of the day that gun violence made its indelible mark on my life and the lives of many within my inner circles.

There are those who would trivialize such an incident by remarking, “It has been four years after all, move on, forget about it.”

Sadly, though it may be easy to utter such words, anyone with a social conscience will know that path of simply forgetting and moving on is obvious only for the unenlightened. For those who have been through the fires of such an adverse situation, the path forward requires more than physical and emotional healing. Recovery is an ongoing process that demands giving of self to elevate society.

As such I have come to that point in my personal journey where I may now serve by sharing from my experience. The prevalence of gun violence in my beautiful twin island home of Trinidad and Tobago is increasing. It has now become almost the norm to hear reports of yet another fatality or injury through gun violence. In fact the current statistic available at the time of writing this piece, taken  from the Trinidad and Tobago 2016 Crime & Safety Report , reveals that 81% of murders in 2015 were committed by the use of a firearm (https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=19522). No figures were available for 2016.

Being a former victim positions me to speak out in favour of peaceful resolutions instead of violent persuasion. The burden of responsibility for raising awareness about the ripple effect of gun violence is squarely cast upon my shoulders.

The position I have chosen to adopt  is not to cast blame or seek to point fingers at anyone. It is not intended to vent anger or frustration against those who choose the use of guns. Instead the purpose is to raise awareness of the ripple negative impact of the use of guns. Through that awareness, the mission is to generate peaceful resolutions and attitudes. The ultimate purpose of R.A.R.E of gun violence is to bring to the forefront the sanctity and value of life and the respect we need to have for individual lives.

The effect of gun violence has already impacted many of our citizens in the past. Perhaps even as you read this, someone else may be affected. It may have indirectly affected you. Who knows what the future holds? Let us not keep assuming it is going to be someone else and their family. Let us strive to add our one drop to the ocean to make a difference. Let us embrace peace and work toward developing our moral, mental and spiritual consciousness as we systematically reinforce our strengths to defeat the kind of environment that breeds violence.

Let us pave the forward peacefully.