In the pursuit of peace in my life and the world I’ve been naturally drawn to the practice and qualities of Nonviolence (or Non-violence if you prefer it with a hyphen!) made famous by Gandhi’s leading India to independence from Great Britain.

I know there are still many areas of our world crying out for major social-change campaigns, yet I’m more interested, for the moment, in how I can embody Nonviolence in my day-to-day life .

My challenge is to bring it alive as a way of being in the world driven by deep integrity and love for all life. My personal goal is to live this way so there simply is no breathing space for violent desires or actions. One way I’m working on this goal is to find the personal qualities of Nonviolence (and NVC) and how they apply daily. It is these qualities, when given the space to thrive, that drive out violence.

As with many meaningful goals it’s a challenging one and I imagine it will take the rest of my life.

The 6 Qualities

 

1.   Tolerance

The quality that allows me to hold the differences between us in a spirit of respect and understanding. Many times I do not, perhaps cannot, understand our differences but I can accept them as manifestations of our different ways to be in the world and at the same time recognise our shared humanity. Without this tolerance it is easy to bring violent methods to bear against the differences I don’t agree with or I dislike.

Application:

  • ask questions to learn and do not tell to educate
  • assume your intentions are positive even if your ways are difficult for me.

2.   Clarity of Values

The quality that allows me to quickly and decisively know what I choose to live with and what I seek to change. It is what shows me the boundary between what I tolerate and live with … and what I can’t.

Application:

  • Capital punishment doesn’t fit my value of respecting life and I will peacefully try to stop it
  • While I understand why some parents smack their kids, it doesn’t fit my values and I will try to help them find alternatives.

3.   Distance

To put space between the workings of my brain and what is going on around me. My thoughts are not ‘true’ but are only my interpretations and evaluations of what’s going on around me. Sometimes I think things are terrible, outrageous or tragic and other times I think the world is beautiful, wonderful and uplifting. Yet reality is neutral – it is as it is. Applying my judgements about good and bad to people easily allows violence to punish the wicked or force to get the world to change.

Application:

  • Pause before taking any action to check how my thinking is driving me
  • Every time I have a thought that breeds violence, ask myself ‘is it true?’

4.   Care

Distance without care leads to a very cold way of living. Care is the concern that brings warmth to my life. It is a desire for myself and for all those around me to be safe, fulfilled and happy and provides an impulse to action in the face of suffering. Without care I am numb to the pain of others and it’s a short step from numbness to inflicting pain.

Application:

  • Choose to spend part of each day in the company of people I really care about
  • Take regular steps to extend my ‘circle of care’

5.   Patience

To trust if something needs to change, it will in time. This is not the kind of patience that sits back and impotently waits but the kind of certainty things are changing even when they appear not to be. When I act with urgency, it often sets up a resistance leading to coercion, bullying, aggression and other shades of subtle, and not so subtle, violence.

Application:

  • Knowing when I’m acting out of urgency and slowing down
  • Small, regular pushes on the wheel of change.

6.   Courage

This is not the absence of fear but the willingness to take action despite it. To be able to shoulder unpopularity or worse when speaking up for what I know is right and not give up in the face of opposition. Knowing when to move forward and when to retreat to take care of my safety or that of others. Without courage I turn a fearful eye away when I see violence against others and so I am complicit in it.

Application:

  • speak up when I feel something is ‘off’, even if I’m the only one who feels it
  • consciously choosing the timing of my actions for most effect and least risk.

Long Journey

I hope it is obvious to anyone who knows me or who has followed any of my writing that these are aspirations and I in no way claim I live all the time with these qualities.

I know, as a matter of faith and not science, we all have these qualities. Some have them easily to hand and deeply embedded in how they live. With others they are hidden away, undervalued and maybe forgotten.

For myself they come and go.

What I do know is that I love who I am when I’m living these qualities.

What are the qualities of nonviolence for you?

[Note: this is a newly revised article I originally wrote in 2010 for the, now defunct, Quantum Learning website.]

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