One of the many pleasures of my work with The Leadership Circle in coaching as part of the University of Notre Dame’s Executive Integral Leadership Program is my cab ride to the airport. Driver Jean-Paul has become a friend over the years and we talk often about his homeland of Rwanda. He immigrated to the United States after the 1994 Rwandan 100 day genocide, during which over 800,000 men, women and children were slaughtered – included many members of his family.
This past week, as we were heading to the airport for my flight home, Jean-Paul told me a moving story. Last month was the 17th anniversary of the mass killing. As a recent BBC story on the anniversary began, “Most of the dead were (minority) Tutsis – and most of those who perpetrated the violence were (majority) Hutus,” the two ethnic groups with a long history of violence.
In recognition of the anniversary, Jean-Paul attended a gathering of Rwandans working toward reconciliation between the Hutus and Tutsis. One of the attendees was the son of Hutu parents. He was a child at the time of the genocide, so he could have easily claimed that he was neither to blame nor bore any responsibility for what happened.
Instead, he stood and asked the Tutsis in attendance to forgive him for the actions of his parents, who participated in the killing. As Jean-Paul recounted to me, the man went on to say that, while he had not participated, he had witnessed first-hand an act of genocide.
At one point, during the 100 days, he was in the hospital. While hospitalized, his teacher came to see him. Remember, the child was Hutu. His teacher was Tutsi. Nevertheless, the teacher wanted to look in on his young student. While visiting, several Hutus came up from behind and killed him in front of the child. I am certain this is one of thousands – actually hundreds of thousands – of similar horrific stories.
On the flight home, I reflected on Jean-Paul’s story.
How easy and understandable it would be for the Tutsis at the gathering to react to the young man from a Victim Orientation and its toxic interplay of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™ roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.
Instead, my experience of Jean-Paul is that he is committed to creating reconciliation. He has adopted a Creator Orientation and sees the process of reconciliation as necessitating the shift to relationships rooted in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ and its “antidote” roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach.
As the character Ted counsels in The Power of TED*, “(A) possibility presented by The Empowerment Dynamic is forgiveness… Forgiveness is giving up the hope of ever having a better past. There’s nothing you can do to change the past, but you can choose how you think about what has already happened in your life. You then apply the learning from that experience to the process of creating what you care about.”
Jean-Paul, the young Hutu, and those who gathered were engaged in the act of forgiveness and, even as the tears flowed, were focusing on creating reconciliation.