01 June 2005
Step Three to Remaking the World
'THERE IS no limit to what we can achieve if we don't mind who gets the credit.' I read that on a poster somewhere and began to dream of what it would mean in international diplomacy, in politics, in business, in colleges, in research institutes, in my own work, in my own life....
The previous reflections in this series have highlighted the call to remake the world and the personal transformation required to be effective. Now we need to get down to answering the injustices, transforming the conflicts and creating the new working models that will feed, house and give hope to humanity.
The old debate about whether it is better to do the right thing for the wrong motive or the wrong thing for the right motive can be superceded by doing the right thing for the right motive! To arrive at this requires at least three things: radical self honesty, divine inspiration and teamwork.
There is a source of inspiration available to every person and situation on earth. We can learn to listen to that still small voice of our Creator in the depths of our being.
Love and purity enhance our discernment of whether what we are hearing comes from our false self or from God. If our lives are not reflective they will be reactive. Buddhists talk about 'mindfulness': a quality of being fully present in the 'is' and the 'now'.
Answers are waiting not so much to be created but to be found, unearthed. Two long-time political antagonists from the north-east of India opened their hearts to each other and gave away their individual pursuits of personal power for the sake of their common desire for an independent state within the Indian federation. Their new relationship followed profound change in each of their lives. The first man had faced his ambition and hypocrisy, talked honestly with both his wife and a political foe, and become reconciled with each of them. The second had apologized to the first for his jealousy.
As they sat together, seeking God's will, they felt that they were 'given' the structure for a settlement of the political impasse which they faced. Statehood was eventually granted without the expected violence and the Governor of Assam, BK Nehru, commented, 'Seldom have such far-reaching political changes been brought about with so much goodwill on all sides'.
The challenges that face the world are so huge that inspired partnerships are needed at every level. Hope in the Cities, a community building programme of Initiatives of Change, has pioneered honest conversations and team-building across racial and socio-economic divides. Their key principles are:
- Bring people together, not in confrontation but in trust, to tackle the most urgent needs of the community.
- Model within your core group the relationships and change that you are asking of the wider community.
- Be inclusive; don't cut anyone off in the process. Take the risk of approaching as allies even those who are different and difficult to work with.
- Honour each person, appealing to their best qualities, and refuse to stereotype people.
- Search for solutions, focussing on what is right rather than who is right.
- Build lasting relationships outside your comfort zones.
- Hold yourselves, your communities and the authorities and institutions accountable for what needs to change.
- Recognize that the energy for fundamental change requires moral and spiritual trans-formation in the individual.
Around the world groups are meeting in this spirit and learning to listen to one another, to the deeper needs of the situation and to the Higher Power. Their stories can be read in the issues of this magazine.
So often goodness is random and reactive. Those with destructive agendas appear more strategic, committed and passionate- qualities which are essential, also, for answer-building based on transformed people with transformed motives. If we really want to make a radical difference, this has to become our agenda.
And, as one Swiss doctor working in Cambodia told me, 'In order to be creative, you have to keep on forgiving the absurdities'. Forgiveness, passion and compassion are key attributes of agents of change, and, as usual, Dutch priest and author Henri Nouwen put a slightly different spin on it: 'The compassionate life is a grateful life and actions born out of gratitude are not compulsive but free, not sombre but joyful, not fanatical but liberating'.
This article is part of a series of five. Return to this page in the next issue for step four: 'Giving hope to humanity'.