When we empathize with the story, it brings relief… when we empathize with the need, it bring healing… when we integrate principles in our empathy, it brings transformation. -Miki Kashtan
After eight years of practicing Nonviolent Communication, I have witness so much healing and transformation. I have seen this take place intrapersonally, in relationships between couples, friends and coworkers. I have even seen communities in conflict transform into mutually supportive communities. I would say that the primary ingredient in all of these situations is empathy, peoples ability to listen and acknowledge each others perspective.
Although, there has been situation where this hasn’t been one hundred percent true. I have spent countless hours listening to people and notice them walk away with a sense of relief and yet continue to hold on to some resentment. This leads me to believe that empathy isn’t necessarily enough, for true transformation to take place one must reframe their experience. They must walk away with a different understanding, perhaps a deeper understanding of their experience. Empathy sometimes offers this sense of depth but not always. In order for one to experience transformation they must transcended blame into responsibility, attachment to outcomes to non-attachment and violent programing into nonviolence. I believe this is where having a firm grounding in nonviolent principles really makes a difference.
For example, if you take Martin Luther Kings principle that “Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.” He implies that in order for someone to hurt another, they too must have been hurt. This principles invites us to a new paradigm shift from dualism and punishment to compassion and understanding.
When I lead groups in Nonviolent Communication and nonviolence, I make two promises. If you embrace these principles you will suffer less and experience more freedom. You will suffer less because you will learn to experience conflict differently. Rather than avoid conflict, you will embrace it as an avenue for growth and personal liberation. This way we embrace our diversity, and see our social, cultural and habitual programing as something to support each other in liberating, rather than to shame and guilt each other for our behavior.
You will experience more freedom, as you begin to see opportunity in the world that goes beyond our domination culture. My hope is that you will help in creating new system that honor human needs, rather than dominate structures designed to control us. Nonviolence invites us into compassion, it offers a new lens to see through. This is the ultimate gift and power of nonviolence.
For additional material on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Principles of Non-violence, read “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom, Harper & Row. 1958
Principle One: Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.
It is active non-violent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It is always persuading the opponent of righteousness of your cause.
Principle Two: Non-violence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
- The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
- The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
Principle Three: Non-violence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
- Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.
- The non-violent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.
Principle Four: Non-violence holds that suffering educates and reforms.
- Non-violence accepts suffering without retaliation. Non-violence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
- Non-violence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
- Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
- Suffering has the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.
Principle Five: Non-violence chooses love instead of hate.
- Non-violence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
- Non-violent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
- Non-violent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
- Non-violent love is active, not passive.
- Non-violent love is unending in its ability to forgive in order to restore community.
- Non-violent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
- Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
- Love restores community and resists injustice.
- Non-violence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.
Principle Six: Non-violence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
- The non-violent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
- Non-violence believes that God is a God of justice.