Perhaps Antoine de St. Exupery was influenced by Gandhi when he wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” It’s the same idea here. If you want to build a base of popular support for a movement, you don’t need to give people pithy placards or weapons, you give them a mirror in which to see their own beauty and purpose. We have such a mirror, but it’s often dusty. Nonviolence is what we use to wipe it clean.
When we offer resistance to someone in a nonviolent manner, we are not rejecting them. We are holding them up to a higher standard, and making the conditions favorable for them to change — usually by changing ourselves in the bargain. In the process, both of us grow closer together. The person committed to nonviolence will strive to reflect the good in their opposition, knowing that in doing so, they are creating a new image of that person that is more worthy of them. We can trust that they long to see this image of themselves, and need the permission and purpose of living up to it.
In order to heed Gandhi’s wisdom to carry out this difficult task, we have to enlarge our view of what a human being is and what life is for. If we are only here to serve ourselves, if we have no ultimate responsibility to the planet, if other people are simply abstractions, then violence would make perfect sense. But who, having experienced a nonviolent moment, would still maintain this? That is the great mystery of this power–life itself reveals itself when we align our thought, speech, and action with its highest image.
Consider the ways that you might show someone who is discouraged and “acting out” their beauty and purpose.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com