The Challenge of Treating Each Other with Courtesy and Respect

Speaking my mind on the treatment of a serial killer

As I ventured to my favorite Starbucks, and happened to sit down next to an ultra conservative, self proclaimed Christian, I made the “mistake” of mentioning in conversation, to the person sitting across from me, that I thought it was a good thing that the court system in Norway was treating Anders Behring Breivik, the serial killer, with courtesy and respect in their proceedings.

Being challenged

The guy next to me just simply took off, raising his voice and saying things like, “Who are you to forgive? Who gave you that right?” And then he proceeded to tell me about his grand mother who was raped and murdered by someone who “only” served fifteen years in prison and is a free man today. Clearly, there were some unresolved feelings on his part. Since I recognized the pain underlying his statement, I actively listened with a compassionate heart, yet maintained my position; that I believed we could only heal this kind of violence by holding ourselves to a higher standard.

Feeling powerless

The saddest thing to me was that he seemed completely unable to hear anything other than what might be fueling his rage. He just continued to ramble on about “what the bastards deserve is to get raped and killed themselves… an eye for an eye..” etc. “Wouldn’t that just turn the rest of us into monsters?” I asked, but that only served to fuel his anger even more. When I asked him his name he wouldn’t give it. When I told him that I was sorry I made him upset and that that was not my intention, he said “Shut up and leave me alone! I don’t want to talk with you!” So, as he continued to ask me questions in an accusatory manner, but not wanting to hear any answers, I felt I had no choice but to leave.

Adding perspective

The person across from me, who had witnessed the whole thing, said not to take it personally, that this guy always worked himself up over other people’s statements. He even said the guy might even end up killing someone in a rage one day, just because of his lack of ability to listen to other people’s point of view. No pun intended. This, of course, gave me pause.

It made me sad that I had to leave. It made me feel powerless over the situation. I really wanted for us to come to some kind of understanding, even if it meant to agree not to agree. And it made me realize how upsetting it is to me when people choose their anger and righteous claim to whatever their point of view is, rather than being open to civilized debate. It saddens me when people shut down, for whatever reason, instead of opening to communication and to widening their perspective.

Finding a solution

How can we contribute to that wider perspective in our communication without fueling the rage of those who cannot handle what we are trying to say? One answer could be that it simply isn’t possible, that one person’s expansion might more often than not contain someone else’s trigger.

I know all too well that I cannot please everyone, that I certainly cannot control anyone’s choice of expression and that when I choose to take a stand in a public space, I am vulnerable to the wrath of those who oppose my view.

As a performing artist, author, composer, Vocal Freedom coach and keynote speaker, I am on a mission to empower people to their heartfelt expression. The tricky part is, as healthy as I believe it is to express angry as well as joyous notions, to channel these expression in ways that honor our co-creative efforts.

Learning from the actions of a serial killer

Anders Behring Breivik thought it necessary to kill in order to get his point across. He said he felt unheard and disrespected in his previous attempts to communicate in a “more civilized” manner. This is a powerful statement, from someone who, however misguided and delusional, was able to carry out one of the worst terrorist attacks in modern history.

To listen without prejudice

I have made a vow, to listen without prejudice as much as I can, to those who happen to cross my path. We all need to be heard, seen and validated in order to survive and thrive and make our best contribution on this planet. And our contrasting perspectives are what makes us learn and grow and expand.

Imagine what we could co-create if we were to treat each other as if we sang in a choir together or played in a symphony orchestra. Each of us truly appreciating the different timbres, notes and expressions of our different instruments and how they blend together in harmony when we practice listening to each other as a whole and at the same time hone our own instrument and how we can play our part so that it supports the overall sound as intended.

Love and Blessings, Caroline

3 responses to “The Challenge of Treating Each Other with Courtesy and Respect

  1. He continues victimizing others because of his own inability to forgive.

    Also, you have the right to ignore people you don’t want to interact with, however difficult it may have been in that situation.

    • vocalfreedomcamp

      Thanks, Rowan. I try not to ignore people, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable, simply because I want to empower listening by example. But yeah, there is a point were walking away is the wiser thing to do, which is what I ended up doing.

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