My least favorite kind of book is the modern-day leadership parable: Too often the characters are simplistic and the narrative stilted. An exception to my distaste is The Anatomy of Peace, a book inspired by real events.

The Anatomy of Peace tells a compelling story of people who, despite having every reason to hate one another, discover how to open their hearts and achieve peace. The story transformed the way that I look at and approach personal and workplace conflicts.

While reading The Anatomy of Peace I realized how often I turn the people in my life into “objects.” I begin to see them as obstacles getting between me and what I want. So I turn them into vehicles for getting what I want. I treat them as irrelevancies or people who just don’t fit into my personal agenda. When I see people in these ways they stop being humans and become objects because I no longer view them as having legitimate needs of their own. This makes it easy for me to justify my impatience, aggressiveness, and dismissiveness toward them.

The Anatomy of Peace invites its readers to take inventory of the people with whom we struggle – family members, bosses, co-workers, and others with whom it can be difficult to feel empathy and patience. The book asks us to observe ourselves and reflect on questions like:

* How does my thinking about him or her as an obstacle, vehicle, or irrelevancy impact what I feel, what I say, how I say it, and what I do?
* What concerns or needs of this person might I not be seeing?
* How might I be provoking unwanted behaviors in them?

By evaluating ourselves using a simple diagram provided by the authors, we begin to see the ways in which we are the ones that need to change. The Anatomy of Peace reinforces the notion that we are the only ones responsible for how we think or feel. No one else can force that upon us. So we have a choice. We can become skillful at recognizing dehumanizing triggers (e.g. seeing others as objects, self-justification, self-righteousness, and blame) and choose to instead honor one another’s humanity.

There is a Buddhist notion that because we have all been born many times before, we have all been each other’s mothers, fathers, and children. So, in every encounter, we should treat one another as beloved – even in moments that call for us to be firm, strong, and cautious. The Anatomy of Peace calls on us to awaken from the delusion that we are somehow separate from others. It teaches us that peace can be experienced in an examined life.

Which of the three ways of objectifying others resonates most in your world?

Photo Credit: Scrappy Annie