When I first heard about peace starting with yourself I thought that was a ridiculous and conformist idea intended to demobilize people. “Stick to your own business, don’t point fingers if you don’t look at yourself”. Yes, I can be in a lifelong journey of self-discovery. Does this mean, then, that I can’t act if I am not perfectly peaceful myself?
This is a false debate, I think. Both are needed. You definitively need to look inside and work out your own contradictions. You have to know yourself. You have to be perfectly honest with yourself and develop awareness if you want to be honest about your work. It is completely true that you cannot give what you don’t have. I don’t mean you need to be perfect in order to be in a position where you can do something, but you definitively have to be in a position where you are willing to listen and be open to learning and do so with compassion for yourself and the others. You don’t need to be a saint to work for peace. None of us are, and nobody would, then.
Compassion does not mean tolerating injustice, nor blind acceptance to it. On the contrary, you definitively need to look very hard inside and think how you are acting and what your motivations are. It takes courage to listen and confront your own beliefs. This makes dialogue complicated. But in the end, what is solving a conflict about? Proving you are right? If all parts act this way, that will not take them very far and certainly that attitude doesn’t help establishing any kind of dialogue.
Being humble is not a synonym of being servile, weakness or “giving in”, but it is certainly a trait you need to listen before reacting. And how can we understand if we are not willing to listen? How can we change if we are not willing to understand? How can we learn if we are not willing to change? This post borrows some concepts from different religious traditions. I learned the importance of incorporating spirituality to the conversation.
In societies where laicism is an important value sometimes we may be reluctant to even talk about these concepts, but I think some are interesting to explore and cultivate for more peaceful individuals in more peaceful societies.