Flash back to 1990. American University. Washington, D.C. I studied peace and conflict with a professor who had been tortured. He of all people had reason to be angry. But he wasn’t. He saw the importance of bringing peace to a war-torn world. And he taught us that conflict can only be resolved when you make peace with yourself.
The news of Paris brought me to my knees today. My life partner and I stared at the screen, holding hands and crying for the people who were directly affected by senseless acts of violence. I felt a deep sense of loss, as if a piece of myself had died with them. Later today I felt a surging need to make the wrongs of my own past right and reached out to a few people who hurt me deeply. It only felt right to stop my internal warfare. I did it for the people of Paris. I did it for world peace. I did it for me.
We often carry bad feelings around with us. Past hurts we thought had healed really won’t until we forgive. It starts with each one of us.
I have been studying peace for twenty-five years. And it wasn’t until today that I realized war begins with individuals. People fight for a cause — and against nations to push through their own agendas. They ban together, using strength in numbers and random acts of violence to grab the world’s attention. We often think we need bodies of governance such as the United Nations or the European Union to bring peace to the world. But what we really need is to make peace within. If we do that, we reverberate that forgiving power to the rest of our lives. Others are positively impacted by our willingness to forgive. Our willingness to love. Our willingness to be kind.
So what do you need to begin your own peace negotiations?
Trust. Trust yourself. Trust your truest intentions. Trust that your gesture of forgiveness will garner its own reward for it will bring you eternal grace.
Listen. Listen to yourself. Listen to others. Lend a caring ear to those who are hurting. Show them they matter.
Risk. Risk being vulnerable. Risk rejection. Risk the chance to make amends. Build on that momentum and you will be free no matter how others respond.
Love. Above all else, love yourself. Be kind. Accept your imperfections. They make up who you are. Know that you deserve Big Love. If you give it freely, it will return to you.
Fear won’t heal the world.
Loving kindness and the courage to forgive in the face of our ubiquitous pain and suffering will.