Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking Down the Walls - my thoughts on a few books I am reading

“I found myself growing more and more angry and I felt the anger begin to focus upon Danny Sanders, and suddenly it was not at all difficult for me to hate him.”[1] This is a great example of “being in the box”, or having a heart at war. In The Anatomy of Peace[2] the authors identify how we can have a heart at war or a heart at peace. To have a heart of peace one must act according to one’s own sense of what is right at a particular moment. When we fail to honor that sense we betray ourselves and create a heart at war. When our heart is at war, we begin to justify* our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We stop seeing other individuals as people; instead we view them as objects. With this justification we build a “box” that actually becomes our “new world.” Our very being changes. This is what Rueven was doing. Danny was no longer a person; he was the enemy. Eventually Danny and Rueven become friends, but only after they see each other as a person.
In the Taming of the Shrew[3] it is easy to see that Katherine has a heart at war. She is angry and bitter and treats others horribly. This is part of being in the box. In the “world” she has created, she has justified her behavior. But I believe that her father, Baptista also has a heart at war. He doesn’t view Katherine as a person. She is simply the Shrew. When we are acting from “inside the box” we actually provoke in others the very comments and behaviors we are accusing them of. So in other words, because Baptista sees Katherine as a shrew, she acts like a shrew.
It is easy for me to see the “boxes” of others. As I look at the individuals in the stories I’ve read and the people around me, I can see where they have built these boxes. I can see how they are justifying their behavior. But in myself…it is much harder to see the boxes I have created. I imagine that this is because I am “inside” the box. I can’t see it because it is all around me. It IS my world. This is a scary thought, because in reality when I choose to betray myself, I am choosing evil. We have a choice in all things, to choose that which is right or good or to choose that which is evil. When I don’t follow the promptings or sense that I feel at a given moment, I am in reality choosing evil. When I look at the consequences of this self-betrayal…the anger, frustration, fear, envy, etc., I can see that it is truly evil.
As Steven Covey says, “Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are…we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.”[4] When I see others as a “shrew”, I am in essence viewing them from my own paradigm, my “box”. I am actually provoking that response in them by my own actions. Covey goes on to say, “It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.”[5] I must break down the walls, so that I can see clearly; I must change my paradigms to become the person I want to be. Give me that sledge hammer, I am ready!

*To justify= to straighten that which is crooked – to make something wrong appear right.

[1] Chaim Potak, The Chosen (Random House, 1967) p.24
[2] The Arbinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (San Francisco, Berrett –Koehler Publishers, 2006)
[3] William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew.
[4] Stephan R Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Free Press, 1989) p. 28
[5] Ibid p. 31

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