Mirrors are tricky things…you can pick out every flaw that you notice about your reflection; or, you can choose to see all the potential that you bring into this world. Everyone is attached to himself or herself, meaning – to one’s values. Sometimes, for one reason or another (to our chagrin) we betray our own values. That doesn’t necessarily make us bad people. It just makes us human. The ability to check oneself, see things from a bird’s eye view, and forgive – that is transcendence to another type of existence. Forgiveness is a powerful tool; but sometimes, we must also forgive because we literally have no other choice. To say that burdens are heavy to bear is a vast understatement.
If you are unfamiliar with the story behind the decade-long war in Sierra Leone, I invite you to do a quick Google search. You’ll likely see footage of “blood diamond” mining, child soldiers, and tragedy in all forms imaginable. Could you ever forgive someone for throwing around your baby & smashing them into the ground? For raping your mother and cutting her head off afterwards? For burning your loved one alive in front of your eyes? Not many could, you may think; but…some have. Now, I also recommend you seek out and watch the film, “Fambul Tok.” This is a miraculous example showing communities who have come together after experiencing tragedy about which words cannot even come close to doing justice. There is a proverb in Sierra Leone, which roughly means, “there is no bad bush to throw away a bad child.” Instead of exiling, seeking revenge against, or even murdering with their own hands the ones who committed crimes against humanity (which maybe no one would blame them for doing)…instead, through the program “Fambul Tok,” they call back war criminals to testify to their victims around a bonfire, in order to begin the process of restorative justice and ultimate acceptance back into the community. This a program cultivates & catalyzes the embedded, absolutely miraculous culture of forgiveness that the people of Sierra Leone already have to spark an extraordinary process of forgiveness, which no truth commission could ever do in the same way. It also begs the question though, what other choice do they have? There is so much suffering still present, as the program is not omnipresent (maybe one day it will be). Hatred can eat away at your soul; but to truly forgive such atrocities may seem hard for an outsider to believe. That said, it’s a process. It’s a first step at moving forward.
Sometimes we get so focused on our issues, our priorities…we need to back up, and look again at what really is going on in the world. Are there any truly gender-neutral zones? Should we have 23 boxes to tick under the “sex” category on forms? – as some biologists say there are that many. Do advertisements towards children enforce gender stereotyping in a detrimental way? Not “if,” but “how” can peace exist without war as its predecessor? Are we approaching justice with equality in mind? Or must we take a step back in order to notice a problem with equity in the first place? Humanity has extraordinary potential within; and as outsiders coming in, our role is not to impose the Western way…but to instead ask questions. What is my role in all this? I must remember to come in as a learner and create spaces with the metaphorical mirrors reflecting back at the local individuals who already have everything they need. We all monitor and evaluate to some degree; tools and skills like useful, but it’s important to not let any and all sentient beings become lost in the process. Expand your sphere to include animals and the environment. Check your lens with which you are viewing a situation, and be aware of your own biases. Maintain humility, always ask questions of yourself & others. “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…how am I seen…who am I…what is my true purpose among them all?”