A Nonviolent Approach

The last few weeks have been numbing and immobilizing to say the least. From global acts of terror to violence in our own "backyards". As I felt the weight of powerlessness, I stumbled across this incredible section in Parker Palmer's book titled A Hidden Wholeness: A Journey Toward an Undivided Life

I had been reading this book for the last few months and the final section titled "The Third Way: Nonviolence in Everyday Life" was a perfect end to his book but also found me just when I needed it the most. 

These last few weeks I have been contemplating, reflecting, and asking the simple question: how do I engage issues of violence that go beyond my control? 

I hope this excerpt encourages you to look at violence, not as simply physical acts of brutality that we see in the media but as "any act of violating the identity and integrity of another person." A nonviolent approach is more than just "laying down our weapons". A nonviolent approach is to give dignity to every single person we encounter and to see the interconnectedness each human has as part of a larger narrative. 


Excerpt from A Hidden Wholeness (Pg. 168-169)

"By violence I mean more than the physical savagery that gets much of the press. Far more common are those assaults on the human spirit so endemic to our lives that we may not even recognized them as acts of violence. 

Violence is done when parents insult children, when teachers demean students, when supervisors treat employees as disposable means to economic ends, when physicians treat patients as objects, when people condemn gays and lesbians “in the name of God,” when racists live by the belief that people with a different skin color are less than human. And just as physical violence may lead to bodily death, spiritual violence causes death in other guises—the death of a sense of self, of trust in others, of risk taking on behalf of creativity, of commitment to the common good. If obituaries were written for deaths of this kind, every daily newspaper would be a tome. 

By violence I mean any way we have of violating the identity and integrity of another person. I find this definition helpful because it reveals the critical connections between violent acts large and small—from dropping bombs on civilians halfway around the world to demeaning a child in a classroom.

Most of us live our lives in the home or classroom or workplace; we play bit parts in the great global drama. But the choices we make in the microarenas of life contribute, for better or for worse, to what happens in the world at large. Even if we do no more than acquiesce to small daily doses of violence, we become desensitized to it, embracing the popular insanity that violence is ‘only normal’ and passively assenting to its dominance."

- Parker Palmer