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Two Helpings of Courage

     I listened to a BBC radio programme yesterday morning. Several times I got close to turning it off as I got more and more uncomfortable. I was finding it difficult to sit still. What was I listening to? Men and women talking about their experience of domestic violence. What was unusual about the programme was the tack that presenter Victoria Derbyshire took. She interviewed perpetrators of domestic violence as well as victims. The men who spoke (and they were all men) had either been on or were stil on Domestic Violence Intervention Programmes (DVIP's).

My discomfort was clearly to do with being a human and hearing examples of the mental and, in most cases, physical cruelty of one human to another, but there was something else at work within me. And this was less about feeling outrage towards these men. No, it was more about the discomfort I felt at the the memories of times in my life when I have been violent towards others. This includes my ex-wife, other women partners, my children and children I taught. My violence, almost exclusively, has been in my thinking, spoken words, harsh tone of voice, sarcasm and so on.

I remember having a conversation in my early 20's in a rugby clubhouse after the game with a mother of teenage children. We were talking about children and young people (I was teaching at this time), and she was saying how sensitive and vulnerable kids were. I remember agreeing with this but emphasising their resilience. In truth, I was avoiding acknowledging this aspect fully for that would have meant a change in my attitude and behaviour. And I had no idea what I would change my behaviour to. I do believe that both opinons are true, but that less resilience is needed if we are more respectful of all people's sensitivity & vulnerability.

And if there was a world award for resilience, I have no doubt that the person who comes close to the top of this league is Malala Yousafzai. It may be unnecessary to mention more than her name, but I learned several things about her which moved me. Her passion, courage and determination to take a stand for education, especially education for girls and young women, in spite of the high risk to her life. Literally. And there was more discomfort for me as I watched the account of her recent life as it entangled with the creeping intoerance and violence from one group of people to another. This time, the Taliban.

And yes, that discomfort comes from the sadness I feel, as once again I realise that they are all men. And they are the latest version of a group of men who have shown this type of brutality and savagery to others. In particular, this group have chosen to focus on seeking to deny girls and young women the right to education. This seems to be based on an interpretation of the Koran that most Moslems do not share. And this issue is where Malala came face to face with death.

She was shot 3 times in the head and neck by a male gunman. It seemed unlikely that she would survive, but survive she did, and now resident with her family in England, she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. As she says, whether she 'wins' or not is neither here nor there really. What is important to her is that a successful conclusion to the campaign that she supports is the true 'winner'. And that takes a certain level of courage, just as it does for men to take responsibility for their brutality in order to change their ways and make our world a safer place.

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Peter Burton is passionate about communicating in a way that creates safe, authentic relationships. A teacher, author and coach, he is dedicated to helping you learn and grow. Want to know more? Time to visit

Posted on 2013-10-22, By: *

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Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author.

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