Provision #223: Transpose Your Enemy

Laser Provision

This Provision contains your voices, the voices of LifeTrek clients, subscribers, coaches, and friends around the world. In the past five days, you have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to open communication and irrepressible hope. You have spoken in profound and moving ways. I hope you read to the end.

LifeTrek Provision

In the midst of this series on habits for success came the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. A day later I sent out an offer of assistance as well as some reflections in which I tried to transpose the enemy. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? Where are they coming from? That is, after all, another one of those habits for success: being able to see things from more than one point of view.

Some readers took offense at the timing of this exercise (too soon), other readers took offense at the exercise itself (not ever). Having stepped outside the bounds of civilization with their wrong-headed, immoral, outrageous, and obscene action, many people believe these extremists and their allies do not deserve such accommodation. They are to be dismissed and destroyed as irrational zealots and senseless cowards.

I understand that point of view. What these people did was heinously unacceptable. As a result, military action and an escalation of the conflict are virtually inevitable. But will we go after the right people? And will the action be effective? And can the violence be contained to a tit for tat exchange? Or will it mushroom into a global conflagration?

We cannot even begin to answer those questions, it seems to me, until we transpose the enemy and come to grips with the underlying grievances • not to capitulate to their side but to understand them as a prelude to negotiating a new kind of peace. Old strategies have broken down. When that happens, in business or in life, taking the time to “walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins” • even the moccasins of your adversary • holds out the only hope I know for genuine success and peace.

This approach was reflected in an article in last Thursday’s Columbus Dispatch. The article was entitled, “Why do people hate America enough to kill?” I encourage you to read it in its entirety. It is well written and says some things better than I said them in Wednesday’s special edition of LifeTrek Provisions. Just follow this link (Click).

That said, I want to use this issue to highlight comments in the order they were received (on occasion, they have been slightly edited to work within this context). It has been both humbling and overwhelming to receive so many thoughtful reflections and replies. I have tried to respond promptly and personally to them all • an emotionally draining and yet incredibly enlightening task. Thank you for the opportunity to share with and serve you in this way.

I would encourage you to read through to the end of these comments. Each voice is separated by a line. All are reprinted anonymously. As the days went by, I found a certain development of perspective, wisdom, and understanding that encouraged my heart and gave me hope. I hope they impact you that way as well.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


“Your message is clear but I feel it will go unheard. I will continue to pray for wisdom for those making decisions and protection from outside forces for those closest to the damage.”

“Thanks, Bob. (Your message) made me think and took away some of the hatred and vengeance that filled my heart.”

“I disagree vehemently with your viewpoint on this action. That said, I am willing to let others hold their viewpoints, even if I disagree. As repugnant as I find it, I would even support your right to hold such opinions. But at this point I am not addressing my fundamental disagreement with your viewpoint, or your right to hold it. I am conveying offense at your timing. To say such things at this point in the healing process is unbelievable and shows a callous disregard for those who are hurting.”

“Thank you for the inspirational message. Your points help to bring some order in this time of chaos.”

“You’ve turned your platform into a political statement. By ANOTHER perspective, this was a “premeditated purposeful and COURAGEOUS attack.” In what perspective other than that of a madman, I would ask?”

“I cannot over-state how deeply I am aligned with what you stated in your most recent electronic newsletter. Violence does beget violence and we will only create more evil by responding in kind. I am disturbed by the need for “revenge.” A compassionate heart for all involved, including the perpetrators, is the only way out in my view. I know this is not a popular viewpoint and it does not condone what has happened • but economic sanctions and political pressure are called for • not additional violence.”

“I’ve been waiting for someone to utter those truths, and you did so eloquently. I’m afraid our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, are not likely to own up to those truths any time soon, so all we can do right now is weep with our Savior over poor Jerusalem.”

“Amid a flood of conflicting emotions, tears, sadness, and grief, and in the numbness of the moment, we pause to pray for peace within our own nation and among the world’s nations. Inspire our quest for national unity, Almighty God and Author of Life, with an equal measure of respect for human diversity. May those who govern people everywhere pause to remember that the primary function of government is to provide for the security and well-being of all people. May the peace we are praying for be marked by a commitment to justice and compassion for all the world’s people.”

“It is so sad and difficult to know that our world still holds such anger, hate and violence.  It is now our job, to do what we can, to keep the aftermath of fear and violence from the innocents in our countries.  The Arab and Muslim populations, throughout the world will, and already are, suffering at the hands of an angry world populace, even if they are innocent, proven guilty out of fear and anger, simply by their heritage or beliefs.  It is our job now, to do what we can to hold the space and heart of peace in all that surrounds us.”

“Many liken it to Pearl Harbor almost sixty years ago. Some are saying that Osama bin Laden is responsible or perhaps Saddam Hussein. Whoever is responsible, I fear that retaliating against them will not end the threat. Is this a war worth fighting? Can it be won on earth?”

“The sound of the blast has not yet faded • but soon we will hear the roll of the drums. And what will be the response on the other side? Destroy Israel! The missiles are already in place. The chemical and biological warheads ready. The joint battle plans of Iraq and Syria already drawn. The commitment made. Israel too is ready. No longer will Bush be saying to Sharon • “Restraint!” The only thing that can “save” Israel from being overrun or wiped out by chemical and biological weapons is nuclear. God forbid it goes that far.”

“I have to admit that yesterday my first reaction was a poor one. Frankly, I was ready for war and even told people to protect themselves for such. Some people mistook my advice to mean, “Take guns to the streets and riot.” Yikes. After the fact, I realized that *the* most important thing was to remain calm and get back to business as soon as possible. I have been urging everyone to do so.”


“How can people possibly take the view that terrorism in any form is somehow an understandable act of reprisal? I have heard that opinion expressed before by god-fearing, anti-government wackos and find it incomprehensible.”

“One of the most chilling comments I heard was from John McCain who said: ‘It’s because they’re bad, and we (Americans) are good.’ My grandfather was in the Navy in World War II and was one of the first people to arrive in Japan after the atom bomb was dropped. You probably know how badly the Japanese treated our American POW’s. Well my grandfather supervised Japanese POW’s in building barracks for American troops. I asked him what they were like and he said that they were like everyone else. They had Mothers and Fathers who loved them.”

“I’m aware of the mixed feelings that come with such a situation. The desire for peace cannot respond to this incident with passivity. The Gospel is never passive, nor are we expected to be passive. However, blind retaliation and reprisals are not the answer either. To respond in such a manner places us into the same category as the soulless cowards who perpetrated the acts of terrorism.

My greatest concern is that a witch-hunt not happen. I hope this country can learn from our mistakes about perceived patriotism and ethnic heritage. I have served with Muslim soldiers. Their loyalty to this country is without question. I continue to pray for peace, and that people through out the world who truly want peace will rise up together and say, ‘Enough!'”

“We are told that the appropriate response to the despicable murder of so many innocent people is to… murder more innocent people. That is not justice. It is vengeance. We all desperately desire to see the perpetrators brought to justice. Yet raining down missiles on some other population is not justice. We must say no to such injustice being done in our names. Justice, yes. War and revenge, no•.”

“A moment of silence for those who perished. A prayer for those who grieve. A prayer for America, that the bricks and mortar of her pride and determination will be rebuilt in each of us as we move forward from this day hand in hand…one nation, under God. May the light of Liberty burn forever strong.”

“I live in DENMARK, des is en TRAGEDY in NEW YORK, i file for you, over dere, i am not so good to ENGLISG.”

“While I understand what you are saying, I respectfully disagree. The only position and ideology I see is hatred, no matter what the reason. I can accept that there are peoples in the world who do not like the US, whose values differ greatly, or who are jealous, or who feel oppressed. But I must protest when you imply, and I get this implication from your message, that the US must take some of the blame for what happened yesterday because of our “position and posture” in the world. I believe that THESE people were part of an egocentric, self-aggrandizing cult whose only ideal is harming those more powerful than themselves.”

“Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall–Think of it, ALWAYS.’ Questions to Ponder: What thoughts and observations do I have about this idea? How can I conduct myself in a more love-filled way?”

“Derek Mahon’s poem ‘Everything is Going to be all Right’ jarred me. I don’t know if you’ve been listening to our national leaders, even our media people • it does not seem to me that much of anything is or is going to be all right. Insanity is a strong word but it seems to me to be close to the target • no one is asking ‘Why did these people do this? Why are people willing to sacrifice their lives? What should we learn from this disaster?” So I cannot imagine, ‘Everything is going to be all right.’ God can bring good things out of the worst, and I hope and pray that this will happen, but many things are not, nor are they going to be for my foreseeable future, all right.

How inadequately we have learned from Francis, Mohandas, Dorothy and Martin. They, along with so many others, teach us that whenever we accept, condone, or participate in injustice, we provoke, we sanction violence. Whenever we (divide) the world into ‘we’ and ‘they’ the seeds we sow result in someone’s death. I was privileged to actually hear Martin say it. I confess my failure to incarnate it profoundly enough.

Part of the tragedy is that we can never agree on the starting place. Each retaliation is motivated by a previous grievance. The cycle will only stop with us if we have the strength and courage to stop it • much more strength and courage, I dare say, than hiring someone with a bigger gun or longer-range missile.”

“We continue to dream of ‘Peace on earth’ and pray that our ears, hearts, and minds might be opened to hear the cries of anguish of the world and pray that we might in some small way extinguish the consuming fires of rage. Save us, O God, from the need to retaliate turning into a new form of rage. We pray for all who are victims and those who are bound to them in friendship and love. In important ways we are all victims and need your healing and your succor. Amen.”

“The attacks were not ‘courageous’ and there was no ‘sacrifice’ because these people place no value on life, including their own…in fact, they think they will be rewarded in an after-life for their commitment of mass murder and mass destruction. These people are not suppressed…in fact, they are fully funded. They are brainwashed to hate and kill everything western (particularly as it relates to U.S. and Israel) from the time they are children. I am a peace loving person….but, appeasing terrorists will only lead to more terrorism…their aim is to destroy us…this was not just a scare….now, it is a matter of survival, and the U.S. will have to do what it has to do.”

“The enemy is not Islam, the enemy is fundamentalism in any form. Beware of the prophet who proclaims: “I and I alone have the truth. Follow me and we will set the world straight.” Islam happens to place more emphasis on political involvement that other western religions, and Islam has been “militant,” bent on conquering the world in the name of Allah. But as any Moslem will tell you, true Islam is a religion of the heart, of conversion to God, and submission to His Will. Islam has been hijacked by its fundamentalists, with devastating consequences for the world. This is a dark day in American history, but it is also a dark time for Islam, a religion of a God who is compassionate and merciful, and in no way a God of terror or reprisal.”

“If my creator is the one God then my earthly neighbors are more than 6 billion of all faiths, actions, thoughts, words, dreams, and fears. If I love my God with all my heart, and my neighbors as myself, then I must pray: That I love the attackers • and my mind wants them punished with God-like swiftness and certainty. That I love the dead and injured ones • and my body aches with their God-ordained pain. That I love the families, coworkers, and friends of the dead and injured • and my heart breaks with their God-longing sense of loss. That I love the rescue workers • and my spirit soars with their God-serving compassion and effort. That I love the leaders • and my will and resolve bends and stretches to bend and be molded by their God-guided wisdom. God loves us all • even when we aren’t lovable to ourselves or each other. God love us and help us love each other through this, the past, and the future to come.”

“Unless I misread what you said, you have assigned a moral equivalence to the bombings and “the spread of US policies or multinational corporations around the world”. Even if one concedes that US polices or corporations are wrong (and there are those who would not), there is no way credibly to assert such an equivalence.”

“Firstly I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to my (initial reaction to your special edition). Upon reflection it was one filled with outrage, emotion and I guess the typical knee-jerk reaction that will do nothing to solve the problem and cause behind terrorist action such as these. Events here (Australia) in the last couple of days have demonstrated the dangers of such widely held beliefs.

Yesterday, here in Brisbane, a Muslim school bus was stoned taking children to school. Mosques have been set alight and verbal abuse against the Islamic community has increased dramatically. Negative community opinion is even being voiced against arriving Afghani boat-people (those escaping the injustice of the Taliban).

I am aware of the kind of US led foreign policy (fully supported by the Australian Government) that breeds the kind of hate seen in this attack (sanctions in Iraq, plight of the Palestinians) and embarrassed that knowing such things I can be whipped up in the overwhelming community frenzy calling for revenge and lethal force. On television our politicians (not surprisingly 2 months before a federal election) are fully supporting the call to ‘war.’ I only hope that the delay before deploying such force will be enough time for others to consider the voice of reason (as you expressed it) and ponder the implications of such actions. I apologize if my ill-thought opinion offended and thank you for the advice and ideas your column delivers every week.” 


“As I was listening to the many radio talk shows (here in Canada), and listening to so many people talk about how the tragedy in New York has changed their lives forever, I realized it hasn’t changed mine and this bothered me. But I have now realized a number of things: 1. No single event, no matter how horrible, could cause me to feel more sympathy, more empathy than I do everyday. I am blessed, or cursed, with such a strong sense of empathy for anything living that I can’t imagine it being stronger.

2. Why are we so touched by the recent events? Why aren’t we as ‘changed’ when there is an earth quake in Italy that kills thousands or a war in Ethiopia that kills/maims/abuses thousands or when we hear of hundreds of homeless people die in the streets in the winter?

3. All the people who said they were ‘changed’ all spoke about it in the negative. No one talked about how they will spend more time with their families, start volunteering, or do things to help others. No one spoke as did the CEO of the investment firm who said his company’s vision and goals would be forever changed and the company would now dedicate their resources to helping the 700 families.”

“This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth.”

“I’ve found that the overwhelming amount of constant information about this horrible event has impacted me in emotional, psychological, and physical ways that I would have never imagined and in ways that I’m sure I am not even aware of. I’ve grieved so much and been so inundated with so much information and so many visuals, over and over again, that I and many people are in a very dark and scary place. My advice to myself is to turn OFF the TV, radio, and Internet and spend a whole lot of time thinking about those things I LOVE most in life, because many of them are still there, haven’t changed and likely need our attention.”

“Religions mingled together, and colors, beliefs, and politics…and now their dust has been scattered together in the wind. Boundaries are gone in the truest sense. We are one again. We were brought to this terrible place, not by a nation, or a religion, or even by a belief. We were brought to this garden of grief by the acts of individuals. There is a dark and dangerous desire to lash out in blind fury. What’s worse, what is terrible, is we have it in our power to do so. We can make it so. We can turn the land to glass. We can become like them. We can scatter people as dust on the wind • as has been done to thousands of us. Dust for dust.” 


“I am from Bosnia. I want you to know that the whole world cares about this very much. Everyone is watching what you will do. I trust that America has the wisdom to respond to this in constructive ways. God bless you. God bless your family. God bless America.”

“I went in to DC Wednesday night to meet friends for dinner.  It was a conscious effort to get on with life, enjoy friendships, and at the same time demonstrate our freedom in this democratic nation.  As I left my house to go downtown, I wondered how I would feel as I went in to the city.  I feel no fear, and while I am angry, I harbor no hatred.  But by far, the biggest sense I have (and had as I headed downtown) is a strong feeling of pride.  As I crested the 13th-Street hill, the city opened up before me. Never before had I been so moved seeing the acres and acres of concrete and domes that were spread out before me.  And I was immensely proud of the strength, perseverance, faith, sacrifice and freedom on which this country was built.  There is something very deep and pervasive at the core of this country, and that is kindness and compassion.  Sometimes it takes tremendous tragedies such as this to unleash and realize the depth of it.  Something tells me that much of the compassion evoked from all of us this past week is here to stay.  And that is wondrous.

“From the moment I understood the severity and enormity of Tuesday’s events I have understood the opportunity they present to all of us to recognize what matters most in life.  My intention since that hour of destruction is to realize what is most important in my own life… and then LIVE it!”

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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