Vaccine against distrust

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, December 2020

A virus is on the loose! Without a vaccine it makes us ill, us and our democratic culture. Its name: distrust. The USA is currently showing us how its would-be emperor with his permanent effusion of hate and resentment is quite cleverly hiding from us how naked he really is.

But with us, too, the virus is creating divisions in the political discourse, among whole school faculties, friendships and families.

When a child comes into the world, it is the greatest imaginable act of trust we can think of. The love of a mother for her child, who to begin with still lives in concealment, is unwaveringly answered with the infinite love which this little being gives her. Everything she feels, speaks and experiences in inner pictures also shapes and is felt and heard by her child who then, after birth, literally places their life in her hands.

The first years of life are completely permeated by love of the world. Children connect with it with all their senses, their feelings and as thorough investigators. That is why Rudolf Steiner said: “It is of the greatest benefit for the child, the more they can live not in their soul but in the soul of the surroundings.” In other words, if they do not have to live in their own soul but are allowed to live in the souls that surround them – because they are worth it.

Children need people around them whom they can trust, who are authentic and worldly-wise enough to show them gateways to the world through which they can come to their own experiences. This is what Steiner means by the “beloved authority” which he wanted for the first years of school. Not, then, an authority “by virtues of their office” but people with whom the child likes to explore life without always knowing the result in advance. And of course parents also have to (be able to) trust such people.

But this is where it sometimes becomes difficult for we teachers of course also make mistakes. It is therefore a matter of open-eyed, not blind trust: we have to address one another in such a way that through seeing the children we ourselves become learners, over and over again. Trust can only be given, not demanded. But we can work to earn it.

Trust and having the confidence to act are as closely connected as, conversely, distrust and feelings of powerlessness. When we have confidence in our children to do things, they also do them themselves! That is the vaccine! For us adults: the emperor can only hide his nakedness for as long as he hides behind a bulwark of opinions. So we should listen and seek knowledge beyond the false security of our own opinions.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was murdered by the Nazis, put it like this: “There is no path to peace on the path to security. Because peace has to be dared. It is a great venture – and can never ever be made secure. Peace is the opposite of creating security. Demanding security means being distrustful and such distrust in turn gives birth to war.”

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