Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. – Albert Einstein
What does that mean?
If two people (or two countries – this saying seems to scale fairly well) don’t understand one another, there cannot be a peace. There will be misunderstandings leading to friction, which leads to heated arguments which will eventually lead to conflict.
If they don’t understand each other’s values, motivations, likes and dislikes, there is little chance for effective communication. With out effective communication, there is no way to de-escalate the eventual problems, and ineffective communication is likely to only exasperate the problems.
Enforcement of one’s will by force of arms might suppress resistance of the other for a short period, but there will always be a return to conflict. The cycle will continue until an understanding is reached.
Why is understanding important?
Please realize that understanding does not mean agreement. You can understand someone, their comments and their motivations and still disagree with both their comments and their motivation. As an example, most would find the basics of Hitler’s comments and motivations fairly clear and understandable, and most people would disagree with them.
The trick with this quote is that the understanding must be bidirectional for there to be peace. Hitler wasn’t interested in understanding other people, his interests appeared to be that he simply wanted to beating them, take their resources, and repeat the process with the next country.
If you can understand the other person, you can start to understand their motivations, how and why they do the things they do. You can put yourself in their shoes and understand how they interpret your actions. Then, hopefully, you can explain yourself in a manner that they can better understand. They can then start to understand you a bit better and eventually (in an ideal world) start to understand you.
However, understanding has always been a two edged sword. There are, and probably always will be, evil people in the world. People who will take their understanding of you and use it to their advantage and your disadvantage. This is what Hitler did to Chamberlain in the 30’s, where the desires and motivations of England and it’s leaders were played like a Stradivarius by Hitler and his team.
That said, I would still argue that more good can be done by being honest and open, and dealing with the deceivers and evil people as they appear. Some of that is my years of experience with these types of people, and some of it is my intimidating size and my potentially (and fortunately, very rarely) ferocious nature. Your mileage may vary.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, where do you have conflict in your life? Is it someone who you don’t understand, or someone you understand too well? Or is it vice versa?
If you don’t understand them (or they don’t understand you), it is easy to misinterpret an action. For a very famous example, consider the beginning of the final battle in the Arthurian legend, where a sword was drawn to kill a snake and save a life, but instead it resulted a terrible battle and many deaths.
Why would you want to understand them? They’re wrong, you’re right, they should take the first move! Ever used that argument on yourself? I know I have. And I bet it worked as well for you as it did for me. It makes you feel better, it allows you to heap even more blame and motives on the other party and takes all responsibility off your shoulders and places it firmly on theirs. And the underlying problem remains unsolved.
It may take two to finish the process, but it only takes one to start it. Obviously the other person is either unwilling or unable to take that first step, so in an effort to promote understanding, you will have to take the first step. If it helps, like a salve for your ego, many say that it takes a better person to take that first step.
You don’t have to approach them immediately, you can spend some time doing research. If you can find out (either through recollection or through information gathered by others) what their values and motivations are, and what they think the problem is, you can get started on your opening gambit.
Probably the first thing I would do is try to explain, using words, meanings and values that they understand, what you believe to have happened. This, hopefully, will give them some level of understanding of what some of your values are and how things might have gone off the tracks. As always, in life there are no guarantees. Your good intentions may fall on deaf ears, or you may have found someone who is actively being mean to you. Good luck with that!
In any case, you have started to open the lines of communication and shown good faith by trying to understand the other person. Hopefully, that will help change the direction and tenor of the conversation, and lead to a better understanding, and eventually, to peace between you.
What if they understand you too well, and are doing what they are doing specifically to get under your skin, to irritate you? That’s a much tougher nut to crack. I can’t help much with this one, as I have only had a few instances of this in my life, and in each case had to end the relationship to resolve the problem.
I tried something similar to what I listed above, and even threw in a blanket absolution of anything wrong they might have done (which backfired in one case, causing them to assume I was trying to hide something or trick them into doing the same).
If we do ever achieve peace in our time, it will only be temporary if it is forced at the barrel of a gun, or the threat of a missile.
From: Twitter, undocumented feed (my bad)
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins136891.html
Photo by Greg Walters