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Step Ten

Parent Message

Continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, promptly admit it.

Guido grew up big brother with two little sisters who sometimes worshipped him and sometimes resented him. Mom cleaned his room and sisters did his laundry through his teenage years while he hung out with friends. Very funny, a great storyteller, almost irresistible. Seems like he was born that way.

His first wife, Alice, on the other hand, came to think of him as a vampire. She’d been taken by his charm and his apparent sensitivity, but into their brief marriage, she realized she could barely begin speaking before he’d take off with his own opinions. He was stunned by her anger. All his life, his opinions had been received with delight.

When his second wife called him a vampire, he began to notice that she became tired and silent the more talkative he was. He was addicted to the sound of his own voice. "I was into mainlining my own monologues," he said. Admitting it again and again as the old patterns reasserted themselves, he slowly came to understand the give-and-take required in a real relationship.

Guido’s story can be translated across genders. Sort of. We’ve all met women lost in their tales of woe or what they really want to buy, oblivious to the listener. In men it’s called egotism; in women, narcissism.

The main difference is that men individually and collectively have a lot more social power than women. And that makes us far more dangerous.

The tempering of a man’s soul is a process that takes years of vigilance and self-forgiveness, listening for the efforts to reel us in, friends to reflect with on the meaning of integrity. Men who seek consciousness are healing a history thousands of years thick that is layered into our personal ignorance. The warrior’s courage here is not revealed on the battlefield but by brave and endless self-examination and the willingness to admit transgression.

Currently, the United States is mainlining its monologue about its commitment to democracy, human rights, free markets, defeating terrorism and defeating poverty with globalization — all laced with the need for an overwhelming military that will make it possible. Even our allies are becoming skeptical for they have witnessed our routine commitment to supporting dictatorial violators of human rights, manipulating market forces on behalf of our multinational corporations and a willingness to arm any violent entity that will serve our agenda.

Like Guido, there is a strange unreflective innocence to the monologue of our essential goodness. However couched in statesmanship, high seriousness and realpolitik, who can deny a certain boyishness to the rhetoric of war, even a boyish eagerness to send young men into battle, a boy’s righteous self-importance in calling peacemakers naïve, a boy’s belief that the virtues of battle can only do the soul of a country good? Writes Andre Gide, "It is easier to lead men into combat and to stir up their passions than to temper them and urge them to the patient labors of peace."

How does one temper the soul of a nation that often acts like an overly avid teenager? How does one bring into public discourse the complexities of peace and war? The heart of war may be strategic, but it’s rarely reflective. Benjamin came to the end of his rope and let go into a heart that was compassionate by virtue of being reflective. Guido was weaned of self-obsession into a reflective understanding of his own actions. Herein develops the freedom within which a peacemaker’s mind thrives and from which the creativity of peacemaking moves.

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