Speak Compassion

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

10 Ways to Give Up Violence for Lent

by @ 3:12 pm. Filed under Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Recently, I was asked by a local church to do a series on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in celebration of Lent. During this time, Christians are suppose to give something up in penance for the 40-days before Easter, we chose to name the series: Giving Up Violence: Communicating Compassionately in a World of Conflict.  I was thinking that going beyond just learning Nonviolent Communication, I really want to challenge those who attend to actually give up violence for Lent.  So many people believe in their hearts that they are not violent, that is until we really look at our daily lives and see exactly what violence we help to support on the planet.  So here are my 10 suggestions for doing this.

1. Give up Violent TV, video games, and Movies:   Stop supporting violence as a form of entertainment!  No more Law & Order, no more Criminal minds, even Pretty Little Liars or other shows that focus on murder, killing, revenge and crime.  No movies with explosions, wars, machine guns, or scenes where violence is celebrated.  There are many films and movies where violence is implied and never seen. While I prefer those over the blatant killing, blood, guts, and gore.  I would even try to avoid those.  See if you can get through just 40-days of not allowing those violent images into your mind and heart. In stead for these 40-days, find movies and tv that will make you laugh (not at other’s expense), movies and tv that will inspire and feed your spirit.  Stuff that makes you smile or weep in joy. Look for romance movies, feel good comedies, documentaries that inspire you to be and do more.  Try watching the movie “Happy” rather than the show called revenge. OR even better yet, read a book!

Also, put down the video game controller that allows you to shoot people, run little old ladies over with cars, and stab people with magic swords.  See if for just the 40 days of lent, you can make it without killing anyone in the cyber world for points or pleasure.  Especially for those who are younger and teen boys, this constant barrage of violence is having an effect on your spirit and your life.  Now contrary to popular scare tactics, these games don’t turn youth into serial killers, but they do have effects on youth.  Some studies have shown these games won’t make kids more prone to violence but will make them more prone to believing they will be the victims of violence. While other studies show these games actually change the brains of healthy young men between the ages of 18-29.  While we are still unsure what those changes mean, I would bet that NOT playing games that fill your soul with violence would have far more impact than actually playing them.

I have been following the work of educator and author, Jackson Katz for many years.  His work focuses on the fact we as a nation are addicted to violence and that the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men and young boys.  As we continue to fill our system with violent imagery, we are also teaching young men and boys that to be a man is to be masculine.  I explore this much further in a post written last year.  You can read it here.


2. Keep a Violence Journal: So many of us don’t realize violence is more than just physical. It is also the amount of emotional violence we inflict on others.  We may not do it on purpose and we still do it.  The name calling, the put downs, the judgements, maybe even the simple acts of gossip are all forms of violence.  One of our worst uses of violence is to shut others down when they need us.  We send kids away for a “time out” to punish them yet it is the times we think they deserve our love the least are the times they need it the most.  Write down daily all the violence you own. Write down the nasty stuff you said under your breath about the lady who cut you off on the highway.  Write down that you cut in line at the supermarket.  Write down that you flipped off the guy driving to slow while you passed him.  Even write down how you refused to help with the dishes to get back at your spouse for not listening to you about your day.   The more aware of your violence you are the more you will be likely to change it.

3. Give up “Power-Over”:  Be mindful during these 40-days of how you use power.  If you are truly using nonviolence then you seek to use power-with and calibration to achieve your goals.  Give up on the idea you can make people do stuff by using threats, bribes, rewards, punishment, or fear. Seek only to share power on decisions.  Don’t use power to get your way to meet needs, attempt to negotiate ways to meet everyone’s needs.  Conflict really happens at the strategy level, not the needs level.  As you become aware of all the times in the day you were about to use power-over or when you discover you had already done it, add it to your violence journal.

4. Give up violence to the earth: Make sure you recycle everything you possibly can and make sure you are mindful are where your trash will end up.  Make sure the chemicals and cleaning products you use are kind to the earth and to the other creatures we share this planet with.  Skip products that have been tested on animals.  Buy local and organic foods when it is possible.  Use paper or reusable bags at the grocery store instead of plastic.  Get yourself a refillable, reusable water bottle rather than drinking bottled water.

5. Give up Self-Violence:  It is amazing the things we say and do to ourselves we would never say or do to others.  The name calling, the put downs, and even the excesses we ingest into our bodies can be horrible forms of self-violence.  The biggest form on violence on this planet is the violence we inflict on ourselves.   We tell ourselves we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not man enough, not smart enough.   We feed our bodies poisons and foods that hurt our systems.  We take drugs and eat junk food in excess.  We drink sodas with more chemicals than we can even pronounce.  These are all forms of self-violence.   Be kind to yourself.  Find self-compassion.  Eat foods that comfort and sustain you without killing you.

6. Give up the word “SHOULD”: One of the ways we drive violence in our lives is having these locked expectations of how each of us “should” be.  Aside from the unhappiness this inflexible way of living causes, thinking in terms of should is one of the ways we justify and fuel our anger and sometimes our violence.  YOU SHOULD BE MORE….  I SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  The word should is laced in blame thinking and blame often leads us to violence.  Change the word “should” to a simple “I would like.”

7. Give Up right/wrong thinking:  The biggest problem with right/wrong, good/bad thinking is that the lines are so blurry.  One persons “right” is another person’s “wrong”.  One person’s freedom fighter is another persons terrorist.  The terms have a hidden baggage that comes with them and that why Marshall Rosenberg referred to them as “Deserve Language.”  They are basic moral judgements of others that secretly tell what punishment or reward we think people should get. Sadly, that is an easy way to justify violence against others.  They are bad, therefore….  Change all of your moral judgments into values judgments.  Instead of worry about who is wrong or right, good or bad, look at what universal human needs are met or not met. You have a much better chance of remain peaceful when you see the needs in other humans rather than what you think they deserve.  I wrote more about disconnecting language like this in this older post.

8. Drive Peacefully:  One of my early mentors in nonviolence told me that if I could master nonviolence in my car, I could master it in my life.  When they cut you off, instead of calling them a maniac, think about your own needs unmet and then give some empathy.  Maybe they honestly didn’t see you, we all make mistakes.  While it is tempting to respond in violence and flip them the middle finger with our scary mean face, that response hurts us more then them.  When people are going too slow for you, empathize that this may be the first time they have driven their car since their big accident.  They may be nervous and would request your patience.  Would you give it to them?  All the names we call people prevent us from connecting with the needs that keep us human.  They prevent us from seeing each other’s humanity.

9. Give Up Punishment:  So much of the violence we have on the planet stems from the belief that others have wronged us and therefore they “should” be punished.  In our schools, our homes, and our streets we are always trying to make people “pay” for what they have done.  We misguidedly believe that people learned valuable lessons from punishment and nothing could be further from the truth. Punishment has several big problems:

PEOPLE NEED OUR LOVE THE MOST WHEN WE THINK THEY DESERVE IT THE LEAST!  Here are some tips to end the use of punishment


10. Give up BLAME!  For the 40-days of lent, take responsibility for all of your actions.  That means giving up the phrase “I have to” and “I had no choice.”  The reality is we always have a choice about how we respond in the world.  We may not choose the things that happen to us and we do get to choose our response.  In William Glasser’s Choice Theory, he explains that the only behavior we can control is our own.  No one controls us and we don’t control them.   Our reality is that our universal human needs cause our feelings and our actions.  We do things because they meet our needs for fun, love, worth, or freedom.  Everything we do is our choice and it is generally in the service of one or more of those needs.  In others works, nobody made us do it.  We don’t “Have to” do anything, we choose to because it meets our needs. Think of any activity you believe you “have to” do and change it to “choose to because it meets my need for….”  By owning our actions and allowing others to own theirs, we give up the blame that so often leads to violence.



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