Past history clearly shows that violence cannot solve problems. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
With the world suffering from war in nearly every corner, the quote is pretty obviously true. It has been true through out history. War and civil unrest in the Middle East. Can you name a recent century where that headline would have been unprecedented?
Yes, there have been peaceful times in human history, like the famous ‘Pax Romana‘. But that was only peaceful for those away from the borders of the Empire. There was still war, there was still violence, it just wasn’t talked about much.
Other than wars of genocide, the underlying problem is rarely solved. All that has been changed is who is in charge of the mess. It takes lots of hard work, and willing partners, to bring a lasting peace. It takes fundamental change, and that’s not easy, but it’s the only way.
Why is understanding each-other important?
Please note that understanding someone, where they are coming from and what they value, does not mean you agree with them. However, many actions we see others take are not taken to offend us, but to satisfy a desire or a need of the other person.
If we can understand what they are trying to accomplish, what the need is that they are trying to fill, we may be able to help them find a better way to get what they want or need. In this manner, the problem can be solved without having to resort to violence. I believe that to be a worthy goal.
Without that understanding, the other person stops being a human deserving of compassion and love. They become the enemy, and automatically become something a little less than human. Sometimes the enemy becomes so hated or despised that they cease even to be considered to be human, but are instead an infestation of evil to be purged from the world.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We can look at World War II as an example. Not every German was a Nazi. And not everyone in the Nazi party was evil or responsible for the terrible things that happened. Many Germans were in a very tough spot in the period between the wars. They saw the Nazi party as a way to meet their needs.
Very few of them knew what was going on in the terrible, dark, corners of their country, or in conquered countries. Not all of them agreed with war. Not all of them wanted any of that, most just wanted to feed their family and feel good about themselves.
How is that different from anyone else, at any other place or time? We tend to do what we think will meet our needs and our wants. The other people of the planet are doing the same. But we get conflict when others do things in ways we believe are inappropriate or wrong.
When the war ended, many still wanted the same things. They still wanted to feed their family and feel good about themselves. By helping Germany rebuild, the Allies were able to help those people find what the Allies considered to be better ways to meet their needs.
Thus the conflict didn’t end when the war ended, but when the peace became the natural state of being. That happened because we understood each-other and worked towards a common goal of meeting our needs. While it has become a dirty word in some parts of the world, Nation Building has a purpose, and works well, when a mutually acceptable solution can be found.
But enough of the history lesson. Where in your life do you have a dislike of a person, a group of people, a culture, or a nation? Can you explain exactly what they want and why? If not, can you really claim to understand them? And without understanding, what are your options when you disagree?
It eventually brings us back to the quote. There is a problem. They are doing something you don’t like or doing it an a manner contrary to your preference. Now what do you do about it? Well, you have a few choices regarding how you move forward.
You can ignore them (hating or disliking them from a distance), you can try to wipe them out or at least beat some sense into them (in short, violence) or you can understand them and try to find a mutually acceptable way of doing things. I think you can guess which method solves problems best.
Back to the person or group which you dislike or with whom you have a difficulty or a problem? Do you know why? Don’t say “because they are (fill in the blank), that’s why!” Yes, there are ornery people out there, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.
They are probably doing things in a manner which suits their needs. If you can understand what those needs are, perhaps you can help them find another way that meets their need, and which is more to your liking. But if all you do is yell at them, will the situation ever improve? I doubt it.
What are you going to do today to help solve a problem in your life? Who do you need to talk to, or where can you do research into the cultural or societal reasons for what they do? Only then can you truly solve the problem, and live in harmony.