Good People and Bad People

Who are the good people and who are the bad people?

I have had many good conversations with children around this question throughout the years when we are talking about everything from current events to conflicts at school. After 9/11, I was teaching in a kindergarten class near the end of that school year and I was noticing kids still building up towers with their blocks only to then act as planes crashing into them.  This had been ongoing since the event in September.  I decided this day to ask questions to see what it was that these kids were still processing.  Kids started talking about “good guys” and “bad guys,” insisting that you have to be on a side. That the men that did that were bad and that they should be punished.  I could see one kid in the corner getting increasingly anxious. He started pacing and holding his head and then he just burst out with the most poignant and beautiful speech I have heard on the topic. He told his kindergarten class that no one wins in wars: “Don’t you see?  It is just all revenge.  How are we going to fix anything when we just keep revenging each other? People will just get more mad and more people will die.” There was a pregnant silence in the room, which is rare in a kindergarten class! I thanked him for what he said and for offering a fresh point of view that I hadn’t even heard many adults express.

“Shadow work means actively working with and embracing all parts of ourselves that are not pretty, not acceptable, and not liked by others…[A] huge amount of life force is locked away in those parts of ourselves we deny and divorce, as it were…And we don’t lock away the so-called bad things, usually we also hide talents…we are not ready to own for some reason.”

Imelda Almqvist from “Natural Born Shamans”

What this child was clearly seeing from his young eyes was the fact that we all have a shadow side.  None of us make life-giving decisions all the time and some people who are in pain emotionally or are mentally unwell make poor decisions that harm life often.  This child in particular had participated in enough healthy conflict resolution within our classroom to know that in a confrontation, it is not useful to find blame, but rather work towards listening to the needs and feelings of all parties to find a resolution that works for everyone in the classroom environment.  In the process, we get to look at some of our shadow pieces and we get to consciously make changes to our belief systems, behaviour, and emotional states of being. Being willing to look at the shadow to bring out the light is essential in the world we are living in today. It’s not work for the feint of heart, but if a 5-year-old can recognize the importance of this work, then we adults can find the courage to engage in it as well.

Jennifer Engrácio

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