By Scott Crossen
The latest terrorist events in Mumbai, India, cause me to consider why an event of this magnitude occurred. What precipitated the mindless killing and injuring of so many innocent people? What made the terrorists believe that what they were doing was right despite their actions being in opposition to their religious text? What makes people believe their actions are defensible and that everyone else is wrong? The question and answer can be applied both globally and locally.
The sponsors of the event would argue to their death that what they did was justified. Somehow, they also convinced others that the killing of 195 people and injuring so many more would be warranted. However, did any of the terrorists ever look at both sides of their reasoning to determine if what they were doing was right? Not likely.
Back home; I was driving down CR 56 the other day when an individual pulled up close behind and tail-gated me for a couple miles until he could eventually pass. I glanced at my speedometer and found I was driving over the speed limit. It made me wonder what made this person think that this action was justified, or more so, that it would make me drive faster? No doubt, he was in a hurry and he must have expected me to know why. I guess it missed me. He was driven (pun intended) to follow dangerously close even though he knew it wasn’t right.
In parallel, I was recently standing in a deli line at a popular grocery store. There were eight of us in line while one person in the deli was making a sandwich for the first in line. Eventually, a person from the middle of the line stepped out and went to the counter to inform the deli server that there were eight other people waiting and could she call for help. The person for whom the sandwich was being made exploded and told the man to get back in line because it was her turn. She’d obviously been waiting a long time, too, but she misunderstood. The man merely asked the deli server to call for support, not to stop making the sandwich and serve him. The situation erupted as the two yelled back and forth at each other, neither listening, as they spewed their convictions. The man eventually left mad, the woman got her sandwich and left angry, and the people in line were left feeling uneasy. Why?
This is a situation everyone experiences at one point or another. How many times have you been in a situation when you’ve reached an impasse with someone? In most every case of gridlock that I can recall, people have stopped listening and subsequently understanding one another. It brings to mind advice found in a book by Steven Covey titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The fifth habit in the book is, “Seek first to understand.” If our objective in life is to find contentment, this advice is not some new-age self-help fluff. It’s rather closely aligned to common sense.
If people seek to first listen and understand one another there will be much less conflict and terrorism in the world. Of course, this isn’t going to happen overnight at the global level, but it can happen at the personal level. It doesn’t mean that listening will always bring agreement, but it will help us arrive at a better understanding of why we act the way we do.