Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

It’s Memorial Day in the US and people all over the country will be honoring our veterans. It’s also the start of a new PBS series; tonight is the premiere of TED Talks: War and Peace. One of the people featured in the series is Sebastian Junger, whose new book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging was released last week, and who has a distinctive take on veterans’ issues and PTSD that I want to explore for what it says to those of us working as change agents.

“[M]aybe what determines the rate of long-term PTSD isn’t what happened out there, but the kind of society you come back to….In other words, maybe the problem isn’t them, the vets, maybe the problem is us.”

Out there, the mission is clear. Out there, cooperation is vital. Out there, structures are designed to support everyone. Out there, what you are doing is meaningful. Out there, you can make a difference.

Out there, there is a heightened sense of justice, a heightened sense of responsibility and a heightened sense of urgency.

And then you come “home.” The way forward is muddled. There is gridlock in government. There are political candidates promulgating hate. There is senseless violence. And at the same time, injustice, sidestepping of responsibility and apathy seem to be the order of the day.

“We’ve gotten used to it. Veterans have gone away and are coming back and seeing their own country with fresh eyes and they see what’s going on. This is the country they fought for. No wonder they’re depressed. No wonder they’re scared.

Sometimes, we ask ourselves if we can save the vets. I think the real question is if we can save ourselves.”

The times are scary. And depressing. Especially when what we are talking about is finding the will to save ourselves. I remain hopeful nonetheless. I see solutions evolving as we grapple with issues about who we are and what is important to us. I see energy being invested in learning how we can create a society, a culture, workplaces and home-spaces based around belonging and connection, rather than alienation and fear. I want to believe in a country rooted in respect for the individual and for the struggles of returning vets and all others facing exclusion, shame or isolation. Let’s use our talents to build a more inclusive community that can take those struggles, and through honest evaluation of our ills, make the case for greater justice and greater responsibility with all the urgency such concerns are due.

All quotations taken from:

Along with my sister, Elizabeth Hirsh, I will be working on be developing a new platform from which to distribute our material on viewing life changing events through the lens of psychological type (material formerly available through CPP, Inc. as Introduction to Type® and Reintegration). We are endeavoring to make the material more helpful, accessible and user friendly, in order to better reach anyone, including members of the US Armed Services, who could benefit from a framework for managing the transition “home to oneself” following a life changing event.

To learn more about our approach, please get in touch:


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Coming home or coming apart: Are we losing the battle for peace on the home front?

Mercy, Forgiveness and Resolutions for the New Year

“Turning personal or national suffering into a source for healing is never easy, but unless that remains our top priority, we’ll be left with a world in which everybody has a finely honed sense of how his particular past allows him to undermine someone else’s future.” p. 66

“[The] marriage of justice and revenge is always a death spiral. We know that all it does is give us just enough moral high ground to do to other people precisely what we wouldn’t want done to us.”

I had already chosen to focus on chapters 1-4 of You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right in this post, however the material in chapter 3 – “The Shadow Side of Faith: Learning That We Can Be Both Victims and Victimizers” – and chapter 4 – “Vengeance, Forgiveness, Justice, and Mercy: Recognizing the Sacredness of All Our Feelings” – felt particularly apt given the ongoing conflicts around the world and the debate here in Germany over how to foster the integration of refugees without a loss of identity or integrity on either side.

With these quotes in mind, and, if you have read it, the first four chapters of Hirshfield’s book, consider the following questions:

  • What personal issue are you grappling with where you would benefit from letting go of old hurts? Where do you see your nation suffering from an inability to move beyond past wrongs?
  • When have you allowed your desire for justice cloud your judgment? When have you found room to exercise mercy and forgiveness rather than seek vengeance?
  • Where have you created difference, separation or rejection by labeling others? By labeling yourself? How can acknowledging and accepting diversity in yourself and in others help you to fashion a more integrated and balanced life?

Note that these need not be life or death concerns, they could be, as Hirshfield describes on page 94, as simple as sharing your distress and exploring possible motives after hearing a friend’s negative comments rather than holding a grudge, looking for an opportunity to respond in kind or pigeonholing him or her as rude and unpleasant.

I’d like to close with one more quote and a thought on resolutions for the new year:

“[T]raditions exist not to serve the faithful, but to help the faithful serve the world. The traditions are there for anyone to use to craft his or her own life.” p. 51

As we move into 2016, seek to craft your own life and better serve the world by rediscovering your own traditions and making connections with diverse traditions outside your own. This forges the diversity dividend.

*All quotations are from Brad Hirschfield. (2007). You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. New York: Harmony.

Creative Commons License
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Mercy, Forgiveness and Resolutions for the New Year