The last section of this newsletter is a book review of "The Lemon Tree," a true and very personal story of two families who represent the issues on either side of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. I had just finished reading the book, writing the review, and had been reflecting on the lessons I had learned from it: about the benefit of knowing personally the face of one's enemy. "Our enemy is the only partner we have," is a powerful quote from one of the family members. Within this mindset, a conflict of too large proportion flared up in my own family and shed a more personal light on the human condition of anger and hatred.
My twenty-two year old son currently lives at home while he is completing college. We are engaged in the classic Adult Bird/ Baby Bird struggle: he wants to fly the nest, but is frustrated because, conditions being what they are, he doesn't have the financial option to be out on his own just now. I feel that part of my job as Mom Bird is to make sure his flight skills are polished and his wings are on straight. I want him to have all the skills he will need to "fly right," to succeed in his chosen career and life path. Then, I will joyfully watch him take to his wings.
Where this leaves us is in a constant push/ pull...a constant gnashing of teeth. Last weekend, in the car together, we had an awful moment. Tempers flared. I felt "slimed" and, I suspect he did, too. Once the fighting had begun, my anger was set into forward motion. Like the Israelis and Palestinians, when I felt hurt, my desire to hurt back was engaged. And my normal mind-set, to problem solve, was not sufficiently engaged. Instead, I wanted to be pissy, to give him the "silent treatment." Out of love, I ended up giving what looked like the "silent treatment" but was really me clamming up...so hurt that I didn't trust myself to use my Highest words...afraid of inadvertently throwing a long-lasting knife into the heart of his self-esteem. How sad is that?! And, this is a person I love beyond description! How easy it would be to brew hatred in a cauldron of ugly words, of constant threat to freedom...to life? How easy it would be to have anger, even hatred, towards someone I don't know (and love)...someone who's people have been a physical threat to my people...literally, to my own kin?!
How to push past this intense downward spiral of anger? Later that evening my son and I made an appointment to meet and talk in a few days. We agreed to individually generate lists of problem-solving ideas and then to share and discuss these potential solutions. Thank God! Our conflict began to move towards a peaceful solution...out of love. My son is not my enemy, but, in this conflict, he is the only partner in conflict-resolution that I have.
My friend Cheryl adds that, in the history of humankind, to have a common enemy has been a way to bond a group together. What if...we can now move beyond the group consciousness of hate-think, and into the individual consciousness of looking for the good in one another? This feels so much better to me...kinder...and safer!
On that note, I recently heard a TED talk by James Stavridis, the NATO Supreme Commander on the topic of "Soft Security." I hope you'll take a few moments to hear his thoughts. They resonated strongly with me. I think he has some "kinder and safer" ideas. Please click here to hear his talk.