Teachers Without Borders Peace Education Course – Blog #1 (10/7/2011)
My “path to peace” is one that I reflect upon quite often. As a child, I was raised in a family that practiced the Baha’i Faith. The Baha’i Faith has instilled many important teachings within me that I still value strongly, such as the unity of God, religion, and humankind, the equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudice, the harmony of science and religion, and the independent investigation of truth.
Unfortunately, I grew up in a world where these principles are not the reality. What I saw and experienced in the community, at school, on TV, and even in my own family, social circle, and inner-self, was often quite different. The presence and “normalcy” of prejudice, selfishness, injustice, and violence has always made me ask the question “why?” It is this questioning that has led me on the “path to peace.”
As I reflect, another key moment comes to mind. I entered my first “serious relationship” when I was 17 years old. I thought that I had discovered “true love.” However, as the relationship progressed, we began to argue quite frequently, often leaving each of us emotionally distressed, eventually deteriorating the relationship. Then came the second serious relationship. This time I thought I had REALLY discovered “true love.” But again, our relationship went through a similar process of common conflict and argumentation. I thought to myself, “How can two good-hearted people, who claim to love each other, end up in a ‘war of words’?” Being inquisitive, I sought help from a counselor. Then came the “a-ha” moment…
After some discussion about the troubles I had been having, the counselor mentioned that I seem to respond to conflict in an aggressive way. She explained, “There are 3 ways to deal with conflict. You can respond passively (the other person matters, and I don’t matter), you can respond aggressively (I matter, and the other person doesn’t matter), or you can respond assertively (I matter AND the other person matters).” I had only been focused on getting my own needs met, at the expense of the other person’s emotions. And what was most alarming, I was doing this subconsciously! At that moment, all I could think of was, “Why didn’t anyone ever teach me this?!”
From that point on, I’ve had to constantly remind myself, “The other person matters too.” At times, it’s been a struggle, as it’s difficult to correct twenty years of a learned behavior.
Which leads me to why I’m taking this course. Since that moment with the counselor, I’ve been on a continuous path in learning how to build peace. A shelf full of books about how to make a profit was replaced with one on how to be nonviolent, a summer vacation lounging on the beach was exchanged for a volunteer trip to Costa Rica, a career motivated by power and higher salary was traded for year of service helping to educate those in need. My recent discovery of “peace education” has led me on a quest to learn all that I can and share all that I know with the world. My hope is that this course will provide me with the foundation to do just that.
What does “peace education” mean to me? It means enlightening the hearts and minds of humanity to the fact that EVERYONE matters.