With the rash of shootings and violence going on in the Rochester area, our country and around the world, it’s hard not to be scared these days.
Living in a small town, it’s easy to turn off the TV and say “I don’t want to think about this because it doesn’t effect me.”
Or “I’ll just ignore it and it will go away.”
Or even, “I don’t want to think about this because there is nothing I can do.”
However, I know I need to do something, but what?
According to an expert on peace and nonviolence, Arun Gandhi, “The world is what we have made it. If we change ourselves we can change the world, and changing ourselves begins with changing our language and methods of communication.”
Arun learned from his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, that violence occurs everywhere. We may think we live in a world where violence can’t touch us if we only focus on physical violence. I know I feel pretty safe in my neighborhood and in most places I travel.
However, Arun Gandhi states in Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, that there is a more insidious form of violence, “passive” violence.
This takes the form of speaking to or treating others disrespectfully, name calling, bullying, even eye rolling.
Any act where it causes an emotional hurt is an act of “passive” violence.
For example, a nasty or hurtful Tweet or post. Mocking someone’s appearance. Rolling your eyes when someone says something stupid.
I remember being picked on as kid and complaining to my mom. Her advice was to just ignore it and the kids will stop. She was right but it took a while. I can still feel the anger and frustration I felt sitting in silence on the bus as some boys told me how fat and ugly I was.
And it doesn’t just happen to us as kids. Fast forward 35 years and there I am again, sitting in a boardroom having insults thrown at me by a superior.
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is BS!
Gandhi explained that “passive violence ultimately generated anger in the victim who, as an individual or as a member of a collective, responded violently. In other words, it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence.”
With all of the hate speech and negativity being thrown around in the political arena, there has been plenty of fuel being added to the fire lately.
Could it be helping to create the homegrown violence in our country? I believe 100% YES!
We all need to get: Words are powerful.
What we are doing is NOT working. The answer is not more police. The answer is not meeting violence with violence.
“Be dominated by love, respect, understanding, appreciation, compassion, and concern for others rather than the self-centered and selfish, greedy, hateful, prejudiced, suspicious, and aggressive attitudes that dominate our thinking.” Arun Gandhi
It is not our job to try and fix what everyone else is doing. It is our job to be sure WE are doing the right thing.
What can you do to stop passive violence?
~ Stop, take a breath and think before you speak, act or respond to someone.
~ Ask yourself, “How can I respond with kindness and respect?” (Sometimes the best response is no response)
~ Give yourself permission to take a time out, if needed. Step away, collect yourself and then go back to “How can I respond with kindness and respect?”
In my case, I had to leave the toxic situation I was in. Fortunately, I had the love and support of my family and friends and a great therapist to help me sort through the anger, hurt and betrayal I felt. Not everyone has the support or tools to handle those difficult feelings.
Imagine what would be possible if we all practiced treating others with kindness and respect.
I try and meet each person with kindness and respect because I know how it feels when met with the opposite. And most times, people return the favor.
Kindness and respect creates connection and makes for a much more peaceful and productive world.
When it is not returned, I give myself permission to take myself out of the toxic space. I practice choosing to “go high when others go low” (Thank you Michelle Obama!).
We will only stop the out of control violence in our world by knowing that what we say and how we treat others matters just as much as physically injuring someone.
We CAN make a difference. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Go to MK Gandhi Center for Nonviolence for more information.
Also read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, to learn more about nonviolent communication.