I started taking responsibility for my own insecurities and it changed my life.
For the longest time, the dynamic of “us” versus “them” was just how I saw the world. I thought in terms of good and bad, just and unjust, freedom and oppression. I thought of the Americans around me in my adopted country of the United States as free and courageous, while Iraqis back home were oppressed and victimized. America was the land of liberty, whereas Iraq, where I was born and grew up, was as suffocating as a prison.
As I lived more of my life in America and less in Iraq, and as I worked in more and more war-ravaged countries around the world, I slowly came to realize that the good, the bad, and the ugly exist everywhere. Harm and pain did not only came from an authoritarian dictator or an abusive husband, it also came through words and actions of self-proclaimed enlightened Americans who saw themselves as spiritual, open minded and committed to personal growth. Seeing that there were no utopias in this world after all was like falling out of heaven.
The problem lay in how I romanticized the concept of “us” and demonized the concept of “them.” I thought one culture and one way of life was superior to another. I was wrong. That realization opened up the doors to more realizations. Maybe I had hurt people even though I identified very strongly as someone who helped others, not betrayed them. My life had embodied the values of a selfless activist who worked with the poor and with victims of war. Everything I did was for them. But I started to see that what I had deemed good wasn’t perfect after all – including myself. I wasn’t exempt from the bad. I, too, had a shadow.
We all have a story, no matter who we are or where we come from. The story of our lives tells of our goodness and our suffering, our privilege and our complicity, our light and our shadow and much more. It has its own particular melody and harmony, rhythm and cadence. Most of us hide the full story of our lives and only tell the good part. I know I did!