Nonviolence as a Way of Life
Offered by Chris Klug
PEACE Iowa member
Be kind because everyone you meet is carrying a great burden. --Philo
Aligning one's thoughts, words and actions with an ethic of nonharming is a life-long process.
It is motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and suffering, one's own and others, and an ongoing awareness of the countless ways we participate, both individually and collectively, in causing harm. The web of relationships in which each of us finds ourselves is the place this harm occurs, ranging from a simple act of unkind speech, to often deeply ingrained biased and prejudicial attitudes, to complex lifestyle choices (though, for many, there may be few, if any, choices) related to food, clothing, shelter, education, health, leisure, employment, governance, transportation, money/investments, etc.
Awareness of the harm we cause directly and indirectly can be heartbreaking and overwhelming and discouraging and numbing. It can lead to resignation, paralysis, and cynicism, and is often resisted. Yet, it is precisely this awareness that lights up the many places where we can make choices that lead to less and less harm, while at the same time planting the seeds for and/or strengthening less harmful habits. Here are a few examples. Acknowledging feelings of anger and speaking kindly and firmly is possible, and requires practice. Feeling afraid and making a sincere effort to understand and get to know those who are different is possible, and requires practice. Choosing to get from home to work on a bicycle or by bus instead of driving one's own vehicle is possible. Shifting one's investments away from corporations that exploit their employees and the environment and avoid paying their share of taxes, to ones that do not, is possible. Entering into this process more and more completely requires courage, commitment, patience and, especially, a light and wise touch so that efforts to bring about justice and peace don't themselves cause harm in the short term and sow the seeds of injustice and violence for the future; e.g., waging war to bring about peace.
Support from others who are also committed to the path of a less violent way of living and being can be very helpful. Here are some local and not-so-local organizations that could be helpful: PEACE Iowa, Iowa Veterans for Peace, Pax Christi, Living Nonviolence, Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
The BIFF Response
In this time of political division and polarization, more positive, respectful dialogue is needed among those who tend to disagree.
Learning nonviolent communication techniques can increase the chances of such conversations going well.
However, when conversations turn hostile, we need ways to respond respectfully while also setting appropriate boundaries.
The BIFF Response technique is one such approach.