A common misperception people hold about our species is that we are irredeemable if we commit an offense, and that a person who makes a mistake deserves to be punished. In nonviolence, our goal must be to separate people from their deeds, and to fully understand that when we err, we need more support, care and empathy to transform ourselves. There can be no rehabilitation worth the name through the means of alienation and punishment. If we can relate to that person, by understanding that we have also erred and made mistakes, we take one step closer to identifying with their humanity, and a creative window opens up onto the inspiring prospect of how we can work with, help, and restore that person to her or his full contribution to life by addressing their actions, instead of engaging in judgment and condemnation. This empathic self-reflection is the secret to the Golden Rule–I treat others how I would like to be treated, that is, separated from my acts: “I am not the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
Take time today to reflect on areas where you feel you have erred in your life. How have you changed course by holding yourself up to a higher image, while holding no illusions about the act itself?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org