Finding Peace In Challenging Times

"The only thing worthy of you is compassion -- invincible, limitless, unconditional. Hatred will never let you face the beast in man." -- the late Zen master and activistThich Nhat Hanh

Hold onto your heart.

Many years ago, I read Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf.” A friend saw me with it and was horrified: “Why would you read THAT?” “I think it’s important to understand what he was saying.” She sniffed, “What’s to understand? He was crazy.”

An easy dismissal. But I want to understand.

I want to understand what led to my family members being sent to the camps, why my mother's first five years were marked by bombs falling around her, how my grandmother chose individual rape by an officer to avoid gang rape by soldiers.

Maybe he was crazy. But what was going on that millions of people gave him credence?

This is terrifying terrain. Seeking to understand is considered sympathizing, dangerous enablement.

“So you condone what they did?” (Understanding is not condoning.) “How could you support them?” (Understanding is not supporting.) “There’s no justification.” (Understanding is not justifying.)

When we're in pain, we often want people to agree with us, validate us, tell us we’re right.

We want people to pick a side. With us or against us. Understanding the Other can feel like betrayal.

But without understanding, we have no hope for breakthroughs.

Mataio and Sarah Brown from She Is Not Your Rehab understand that abusive men are working out their childhood traumas on their partners. Only by seeing that pain, sitting with it, healing it, can we end cycles of intergenerational violence.

They do not condone, support, or justify abuse. By understanding how abuse happens, they are empowered to end it.

They understand the difference between accountability and blame. Accountability seeks to understand what happened. Blame seeks to understand who’s wrong.

Like Brené Brown’s guilt/shame distinction, accountability means “You did something bad.” Blame is, “You are bad.”

Blame drives hate, compounds trauma, perpetuates cycles of pain.

Blame is seductive. Anything less can feel like we’re letting people get away with bad behavior. But there's nothing in my work, in Mataio and Sarah’s work, in Brené’s work that is about letting people get away with bad behavior.

It’s the exact opposite. Accountability demands we address bad behavior AND creates space to take ownership of its drivers -- not the  excuses for, the drivers of,.

Understanding drives accountability. Accountability creates space for compassion. Compassion is fundamental to peace.

It takes courage to hold onto compassion when people are begging you to join them in blame. It takes courage to condemn behavior without choosing sides. To sit with our own complicity when the Other is so clearly in the wrong.

But you are allowed allowed to seek understanding without condoning, excusing or justifying. You are allowed to see people’s humanity, no matter which side they are on.

You are allowed to hold onto your heart.

Please do.



2 comments about "Finding Peace In Challenging Times".
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  1. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, December 18, 2023 at 8:28 a.m.

    Well said Kaila

  2. Rosa Almarza Del Campo from Illuma, December 20, 2023 at 4:05 a.m.

    Nice reading!! Thanks!

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