I recently finished the book I Am Malala, a story about the young woman, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban – and survived.
As someone who works with trauma and its effects, I could not help but think of the enormity of this trauma – hunted down by a violent group, shot, then torn unexpectedly away from all that has become comfortable and familiar during the first 14 years of life. What struck me most about this absolutely beautiful, inspiring young woman is that she is so clearly standing up for a group that has been oppressed – women in Pakistan – and so intentionally interrupting violence, despite the clear risk to her life it brings. “If they come to look for me, I will tell them to their faces: women deserve education.” I’m tempted to say “this woman has balls!” But in reality, she has ovaries. Powerful ones.
We all experience trauma of some sort, and there are many ways to define traumatic experiences. A commonality across many traumas is some form of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, relational, situational. Unfortunately, there are many ways violence can present in our lives. It can happen that entire groups of people create a culture in which it is okay for a certain segment of that population to be limited – itself a form of violence, of oppression against this group. We are all likely, at some level, going along with a cultural norm that makes it okay for someone to suffer.
The point here is not to blame anyone for the problems of the world, but to bring awareness and empower people to solve these problems.
Take a moment to reflect on Malala’s commitment to human rights. Now ask yourself:
- How do you suffer?
- Who looks on while you do?
- What could they do to help?
- Would that be sustainable?
- How do those around you suffer?
- When do you ignore their suffering?
- What can you do to help?
- Would that be sustainable?
The sustainability question is key – we each need to find the amount of energy and support we can consistently give. Could you donate time or money? Could you change an internal belief, or discontinue a habit that you know is not helpful?
How can you interrupt the violence in your community?
Now that I have thrown the hard questions at you (well worth answering, I might add), I’ll give some examples, small and large.
- Say thank you
- Support an organization doing non-violent work – with your time, your money, your thoughts, your prayers
- Change the ways you think that include perpetuate a sense of “other” and lead to feeling of separation and attack.
- Relax. Everyday. If you don’t understand how this would help, please send me your questions.
- Develop your spirit. No one is born hating other people.
Remember, this is not all about problem solving, it is also about PREVENTION. There is so much value in simple gestures – a smile, a nod, a moment of laughter or connection. Talk to teenagers, even if they don’t respond. Include people in your community and you are less likely to feel there is an other out there about to attack you. The less we anticipate attack, the more we can perpetuate peace.
If you need inspiration, look to brave souls like Malala. I’d like to think I would tell the Taliban off to their face, to stand up for women’s rights and hold composure. But who knows what any of us would do in the face of that level of violence? Luckily, many of us are far from that reality, and with distance comes perspective, and privilege. We have the privilege to not live in this level of fear, AND we have the perspective to reflect on how we can help in a proactive, rather than reactive, way.
Who or what will you stand up for in this lifetime? What will you feel proud to have lived for, or perhaps even to die for? She is Malala, and she is on her path. Now tell me who you are, and who you stand for. (If you’re unsure and need some help defining yourself, read this post on ego strength.) If you haven’t read it already, I encourage you to read I am Malala, and consider how many people are peacefully standing up for human rights, and for what connects us in a healthy way. Each person who chooses to stand up makes our society grow & evolve into a safer, loving, more healthy place.
Those are my deep thoughts for the day. Hold it lightly and continue to shine your light on the world…
As always, sending love.