The attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the subsequent incidents in Paris earlier this week have touched us all. My heart aches for those whose loved ones have been killed, but the pain extends way beyond that.
When violence reaches into the (perhaps sheltered) everyday-ness of our lives – an office, a supermarket, the streets of our cities – our frames of reference are shattered. It’s a level of betrayal that can be disorienting, and each of us has our unique way of responding.
The whole range of responses to this kind of shock is so understandable – the paralysis of fear and disbelief, the collapse into heartbroken-ness, the take-charge organizing, the attempts to ‘fortify the ramparts’ and beef up protection, or (whether expressed in words, or in other acts of violence against the perceived perpetrators) the outrage. We are all human beings trying to navigate this thing we call life with the skills and perspectives we’ve learned. We’ve been conditioned by our families, our cultures, and for some of us our religions.
Today’s protest march at Place de la République in Paris –
photo via Wikimedia Commons by Aridd Creative Commons license by sa 4.0
It’s painful to see, and hard for most of us to imagine participating in the extremes of action/reaction that took place in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Our conditioning doesn’t lead us to attacking and killing another – even if they’ve clearly demeaned or ridiculed us. But if we’re honest about it, I think we can all feel (in our often unconscious attempt to get back at those who have hurt us) the impulse to at least ‘push back’ if not ‘lash out’ in some way.
To be clear, I’m NOT suggesting we should all be the same, need to agree, or that we should accept perspectives that don’t feel true for us. I’m not hankering after an all vanilla world! Though our differences can often be uncomfortable, they also contribute to the variety of possibilities available for exploration, and THAT’S a significant part of the richness of our lives.The challenge isn’t so much in our differing opinions or beliefs, but the way they’re expressed, and the way we respond to those expressions.
As human beings we all need to be respected and honoured.
While I’m clear it’s not a perspective currently held by everyone – perhaps not even the majority – I join those who stand for the creation of a world where we express our differences powerfully and respectfully.
I equally hold the possibility that even if/when that’s not the case, and others lash out or ridicule us or something I/we hold dear, we choose a different response than lashing out or seeking revenge. I know the courage and care it takes to do this.
I join with those in our Realizing RICH Relationships community and beyond, whose intention and practice is one of constantly expanding our capacity to respond to these challenges from a grounded space. And in those times we don’t manage to do that, choose to honour the humanity in of all of us.
Let’s not waste the opportunity presented in stark relief as it has been this week. Instead of pointing fingers or moralizing about who’s ‘right’ and who’s ‘wrong’, or who’s ‘worse’ than the other, what if we used it as an invitation to look at our own lives and choices?
What if we noticed that those places inside us that scream ‘no, it shouldn’t be this way!’ were really anchored in the deep knowing in us of the need for the respect we humans long to receive? What if we used the pain of this situation to become curious about places and ways we might not be honouring of others (or ourselves)?
What if we used the pain of this moment to deepen our commitment to nurturing RICH relationships – first with ourselves, then with others, and indeed with all of life?
There’s no make wrong here, we’re all on a steep learning curve.
This situation in Paris highlights the challenges we all face when respect (the ‘R’ in RICH) of each other is missing. And the fallout of this, creates a powerful invitation to take a stand for honouring our humanity (the ‘H’ in RICH).
We may not agree with each other’s perspectives, and may not choose to be in a close intimate (the ‘I’ in RICH) relationship with those ‘others’. And certainly holding the vision of possibility and choosing to learn to live in this RICH way calls for enormous courage (the ‘C’ in RICH). We are – we’re going against eons of conditioning!
However, weighing the cost of that against the painfulness of the alternative of continuing to make the same old choices seems like a no-brainer! Remember the quote attributed to Albert Einstein –