White ribbon day, Nov 25th, 2016
By John Steward.
This is such an important day on the world calendar: the international day for elimination of the violence against women. This day commences the UNs 16 days of activism against Gender-based violence and the action to “Orange the world”.
I am ‘all for’ this focus.
And yet I don’t feel satisfied. It is not enough, not even close. It’s the same feeling I have when I see the signs that read: SAY NO TO VIOLENCE.
Twenty years ago I discovered that my marriage was on shaky ground; I took advice from a friend and attended a community health program, where I began to face some truths about myself. The most shocking insight was that I did not know how my wife and children experienced me.
I was proud of my marriage and family but devastated by how they were affected by my attitudes and demands upon them, my inflexibility, my correctness, my need to be right, my lack of feeling and empathy for them.
It took 16 months for me to do enough work to regain stability in my key relationships. But the greatest revelation was yet to come: my work took me to Rwanda after the genocide of 1994, where I participated and deepened my journey and then supported and promoted inner healing of others.
There, to my amazement, the processes used to promote the change were broadly the same as in my own experience. That’s because domestic violence is not different from national violence. The cause is much the same, only the scale changes. Genocide begins in the human heart.
MEN and boys – saying NO is not enough. You must find a space to open your heart and find the violence that is within. It will be there in the form of sadness, guilt, failure, a sense of being lost, an unknown or unexamined or well-hidden grief or pain. Often it is disguised or covered by an overlay of activity and outward success. Or buffoonery. Or bravado. But those who are closest to you will know, because they suffer the effects.
Ask them – but first put a tape across your mouth. Just listen to those closest to you – and for the first time hear how those you love experience you. Then you will know you have work to do.
I cannot say ‘No’ to the violence of others until I know my own, and have begun to deal with it.
Dr John Steward is the author of the award-winning From Genocide to Generosity – hatreds heal on Rwanda’s hills.
For further insights into human healing and change keep in contact with www.2live4give.org
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