Nothing I can do in the present can take away the mistreatment of the past, the way I carry myself in the present determines how I carry forward the memories of those mistreatments. When I see others as objects, I dwell on the injustices I have suffered in order to justify myself, keeping my mistreatments and suffering alive within me. When I see others as people, on the other hand, then I free myself from the need for justification. I therefore free myself from the need to focus unduly on the worst that has been done to me. I am free to leave the worst behind me, and to see not only the bad but the mixed and good in others as well.
“But none of that is possible,” he continued, “if my heart is at war. A heart at war needs enemies to justify its warring. It needs enemies and mistreatment more than it wants peace.”
“Yuck,” Ria said under her breath.
“Yuck, indeed,” Yusuf (Palestinian) agreed. “A high-ranking Israeli political leader once said to me, ‘we and our enemies are perfect for each other. Each of us gives the other reason never to have to change.’ Unfortunately, the same is true in our homes and workplaces. The outward wars around us start because of an inward war that goes unnoticed: someone starts seeing others as objects, and others use that as justification for doing the same. This is the germ, and germination, of war. When we’re carrying this germ, we’re just wars waiting to happen.”
The Arbinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, second edition