Teachers Without Borders Peace Education Course – Blog #2 (10/16/2011)
If your answer was “No,” why did you answer that way? Does your reasoning have to do with someone besides yourself, your family, or your community? Are you thinking, “They’ll never get along.” “They are causing too many problems.”
If your answer was “Yes,” why did you answer that way? Is it because of something you personally plan on doing, or because of something you believe someone else will do to help the world achieve peace?
From my experience, when it comes to solving major problems (such as achieving world peace) it seems that most people tend to focus on the actions of others. “They don’t’ listen. They are crazy. You can’t work with them.” In the words of musician Michael Franti “We say we want peace, but nobody wants to change their own mind.” It has become a recent revelation of mine that if the human race ever wants to truly achieve peace, we must stop solely focusing on the actions of others, and turn inward to focus on the thoughts and actions of ourselves, or as Mahatma Gandhi states, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So how can someone establish a “zone of peace” within themselves and their community? As I reflect on my personal journey to building peace (and with the help of Louise Diamond’s article “Zones of Peace”), there are several things that come to mind on how this can be accomplished. Here are my top 5 steps:
1) Defining “Peace” – An activity I’ve done individually, and also with groups I’m close with, defining and discussing the word “peace” is fundamental in achieving a zone of peace. What does peace mean? What are the different levels of peace? What are barriers to peace? How can peace be achieved? This is something that is incredibly helpful for every person, family, school, and community to do in order to lay the foundation for any future actions necessary for building peace. It also ensure that everyone understands their own perspectives and the perspectives of others.
2) Understanding Nonviolence and Conflict Resolution – Unfortunately, it seems that most of society (including myself) tends to mostly learn violent (physically, verbally, and/or emotionally) methods for dealing with conflict. Not until I was 19 years old did I become consciously aware of various nonviolent techniques for resolving conflict (active listening, practicing empathy, searching for win/win solutions, etc). Having a clear understanding of these important concepts is also imperative for building peace.
3) Practicing Critical Thought of Individual Actions – This has been a constant struggle for me. As I made a commitment to building to peace, I began to analyze all of my actions with an added “lens of peace.” Does this action build peace or reduce peace? Arguing with a sibling, gossiping about someone behind their back, disrespecting an opponent during a game of basketball, eating meat which required the killing of an animal, throwing a recyclable water bottle in the trash, lazily watching TV instead of serving a community need, and the list goes on. What’s most important is that each individual and community critically analyzes their actions and focuses on what each person can do to improve and make the world more peaceful.
4) Focusing on Continuous Improvement – Paster Charles Swindoll states, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Even after making a commitment to building peace in the world, I have “failed” on a number of occasions to do so. The key is to focus on “why” you failed to be peaceful, rather than on the failure itself, and to react appropriately. For me, I’ve come to realize that I have a tough time being peaceful in several situations, one example being while playing competitive team sports. In situations that we struggle with building peace, we must reflect on what caused a “failure of peace” and strive to make changes in our future responses (the 90%) to make incremental progress.
5) Surrounding Yourself with a Peaceful Environment – This can take on many forms. For me, it’s been replacing the books I read, the music I listen to, the hobbies I participate in, the job I work at, my field of study, and the people I surround myself with, which have all had a strong influence on who I’ve become as a person.
Building peace doesn’t happen on its own, and it’s not something that someone else will do for you. Creating a zone of peace is a conscious, life-long effort that every individual and community must take on, with the process itself being its own reward. What does your zone of peace look like? Please share your thoughts!