In his eloquent speech on October 19th, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the U.N., exhorted the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to step back from the abyss and get serious about finding a political solution to their deteriorating conflict.
He acknowledged everyone’s frustrations and anger about the settlements and the occupation; that their hopes for peace have been dashed countless times. He asked them to harness their energies into strong, peaceful voices for change to make their dreams reality. He was not asking them to be passive, he said, but to turn their frustration in a positive direction. He reminded them that they had the same goal, which would be reached when a Palestinian state existed alongside Israel—and that everyone has the right to live decent lives in dignity, respect and freedom.
Ban Ki-moon went on to ask both sides to put down their weapons of despair, to demand progress from their leaders for a political solution. He implored them not to allow extremists to use religion to further the conflict, to stand firm against terrorist incitement, to preserve the holy sites, and stated that nonviolence requires more courage and strength than violence.
I look at the elements of Ban Ki-moon’s message and think of their broad applications for all of us in resolving conflicts (and finding forgiveness) in our daily lives:
Acknowledge the other side’s feelings;
Think about your (common) objective and work on breaking the cycle;
Stand down and resist any urge toward escalating your conflicts;
Put down weapons (thoughts, words, and deeds) of despair (and open the door to hope);
Don’t allow others to incite you—choose peace and think for yourself;
Get serious about reaching solutions and concentrate on those (not all the negative feelings you have inside).
Following these steps with our individual, personal conflicts is transformative.
Lack of peace, whether personal, national or international, often correlates with entrenched attitudes (being “right”), a contest of wills, an unwillingness or inability to acknowledge one’s own role in the mess, and a stunning lack of forgiveness. There is no such thing as a unilateral conflict.
Forgiveness is a process, not a single act, and interpersonally need not be bilateral to be liberating. Forgiving someone does not mean making friends with them, but to release yourself from the bonds of rage and swamp of negativity.
I once read that hating someone is like burning down your house to kill a rat. If not actually incendiary, hate poisons the hater. And a life of hate is really no life at all.