Many of my assignments throughout the year are based upon
conflict in one form or another and I thought today, Christmas day, might be as
good a day as any to consider where this comes from. All over the Christian world, people are
driving to family re-unions. Some, however, will stay away, feeling either uncomfortable
or unwelcome or possibly simply not willing to confront memories of the past.
The problem, as I see it is that our re-unions often awake
memories that many of us would rather keep forgotten: perhaps a stolen childhood
toy, or badly timed words, rejection when we wanted contact most. Even the tiniest
of incidents can come back with magnified effect and precision.
In 424 St. Augustine wrote that we should ‘love mankind but
hate its sins’ or rather later, as Mohandas Gandhi wrote: ‘hate the sin but
love the sinner’. This last slogan has
been sitting on my desk for the past few months, waiting for me to pick it up
and use it. If I understand it correctly,
I should love my brother because he is my brother but I need not love, or like,
or condone what he might do or say.
In many ways I find this saying extremely powerful,
especially in today’s troubled world. News agencies are constantly bombarding
us with atrocities. They focus almost entirely on the deed and not on the
people that commit them. In fact, often we are not even allowed to consider the
perpetrators, this is seen as siding with them, of being a traitor even. And yet history shows us that by understanding
our enemies we can begin to rationalize what they do and then, perhaps begin
the painful journey towards forgiveness, if that is ever possible. The death of Nelson Mandela this year was an
extremely powerful reminder of the benefits of separating the deed from the
doer. In fact, to my knowledge, there
have been no lasting peace settlements anywhere that have not come about
without adhering to St. Augustine’s words in one way or another.
This Christmas, I would like to wish all my readers a very
peaceful, happy and fun time wherever they are. I look forward to communicating
with you in 2014. No doubt, as we make our way through the year, things will
happen that will demand us to separate the perpetrator from the deed. If we are able to do this, I believe, we will
enjoy a very rich and fulfilled year, one where the wasted energy that we target
towards frustration and anger can be re directed towards creative thinking and
long-term problem solving.
Have a good week,