Awareness is: Once upon a time
There was a history teacher, an older woman who had been teaching kids for decades. One day she witnessed a conflict between students, two 13-year-old boys, and asked the two to come and see her after class. She asked what was going on and listened to their stories. One had beaten up the other because a few days before, that boy had said something very mean about his family. To defend himself, the other boy shared he did this because the first one had done exactly the same thing a week before.
This went on and on; the two boys could list a spiral of events where they, and their brothers, were involved in fights and blaming each other. In an ultimate attempt to justify his behaviour, one claimed his father told him the father of the other boy already did the same thing and that he was totally OK with his son getting back at the other boy. The only things that they had in common were that they both hated history class and that they wanted to join the army as soon as they were old enough.
After simply listening to the stories of these boys, the teacher asked if she could share her observation. The boys were surprised, because they expected to get some form of punishment, and agreed.
‘Boys, I agree with you, I hate history class as well. I have been teaching the same thing for decades. I am repeating the same story, over and over. A big part of history is about the wars people fought and at the end the result is always the same. There is lots of destruction, suffering, bloodshed, grief, and pain. Not only amongst the soldiers but also, and oftentimes even more, amongst the innocent ones. If it wasn’t so painful to see all that suffering, it would be boring because history keeps repeating itself. And you two, you are heading towards the same thing.’
She looked the boys in the eyes and spoke very directly:
‘Boys, you two are fighting the wrong fight. You think the other is your enemy. Your brothers and fathers have been doing the same thing and your sons are going to do it again. If you indeed hate history classes so much, I encourage you to start writing a different story. You are fighting the wrong fight, because you don’t understand who the enemy is. You think it is the other boy, yet it is something in you. You are your own biggest enemy because you treasure the hate in your heart. You are cowards because you don’t dare to look at the evil in your own heart and by hating the other, you keep feeding that monster. True victory will only come when you have the courage to fight the hate inside yourself, your unwillingness to forgive. You think that by not forgiving the other and fighting him, you will be able to win the battle. Well, you might win one battle, but never the war. As I said, because you are fighting the wrong war and with the wrong weapons.
‘If you want history to stop repeating itself, you need to create a different kind of army. One that fights with different weapons. You need to be courageous enough to break the ongoing spiral of violence, and to do this, you have to beat the monster inside yourself. Stop feeding it with your hate and desire for revenge. This monster is always hungry and wants more and more. It will keep growing and creating more pain inside your heart. You need to stop feeding the monster of hate. If there’s one creature in the world that must starve, let it be that evil monster. This is the only way you will find peace. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is the ability to love the other as much as you love yourself.
‘For that, you need to put down the weapons you know so well and keep improving. Learn how to listen to each other. Learn to listen with the desire to connect from heart to heart. Ask questions, bring out the best in the other. Stop telling your children the wrongdoings of your neighbour and start telling them how wonderful they are. Teach them a new way of thinking and how to live together. Your fathers taught you evil; I challenge you to turn evil around, to spell it backwards so that it will
read as ‘live’.
‘Dare to look into the mirror of your own evil and you will live. In peace.’
© 2023. Alex Verlek, Coaching Works International.