The world in which we live is out of balance. Climate scientists assert that the ferocity of storms and forest fires is intensified due to global warming, leading to great destruction. Societally, we have deep social and political divisions. Our human ecosystem is riven. As a backdrop, we have a once-in-a-century pandemic that is interfering with the human touch. With intention and a good faith commitment to listen and understand each other as individuals, we can create a social equilibrium that will allow us to work collaboratively and peacefully to meet our important challenges.
As human beings, we have the capacity to empathize and work hand-in-hand toward joint resolution of issues. Arun Ghandi spoke in Foy Hall in 2016, relating lessons and remembrances of his grandfather Mahatma. In his speech, he gave his personal view that peace can only be obtained nonviolently through engagement of the following elements:
When we respect another, we can grow to understand that person. When we understand their thoughts, perspectives, and values, we can then develop acceptance of them. And when we accept an individual, we will have granted ourselves the joy of appreciating that person.
This is a remarkably simple formula, and it can be used as a template to foster strong, peaceful, and productive relationships between individuals, groups, and nations. With it, we can form bonds of trust. Leah Green employed similar principles beginning in 1990 with the Compassionate Listening Project.
Ms. Green arranged for members of the project to travel to Israel and Palestine that year, to facilitate difficult discussions between residents of each area. Employing deep, nonjudgmental listening techniques, those residents listened to understand and respect one another as humans, rather than as hostile enemies. The Listening Project has repeated this journey 33 times. Peace has not yet come to those communities, but many members have learned to understand, respect, and trust the other. With empathy and a good-faith willingness to understand one another, they are working toward a common interest in peaceful and secure living.
These are techniques that can be used for the betterment of all communities, including ours as the Auburn Family. We don’t always get along or see things from the perspective of another, but by listening to understand rather than to argue, we can learn to respect and work with that other person. In the process, we may learn to accept and appreciate them as treasured family members. Then, our ecosystem will become livelier, stronger, and more productive.
Post contributed by Kevin Coonrod, Auburn University Ombudsperson. The Office of the Ombudsperson is a confidential resource devoted to assisting all university members to navigate through conflict and other difficult problems.