In nonviolence, we don’t need to turn enemies into close, dear friends, but at least we can turn them into human beings. Such a transformation is not simply an ideal–it can actually save our lives. Angie O’Gorman, for example, woke up at 2:30 in the morning with someone standing over her in her bed. She was terrified. She had many thoughts racing through her head, all helping her to answer how she would make it out of this situation alive. She recalls even thinking about her gun hidden under her pillow, realizing that it would have only made her would-be attacker move in faster: to try to harm him, she must become her own enemy.
In a split second, another thought came to her, the voice of her conscience, and it gave her peace. In her own words, “I realized with some clarity that either he and I made it through this situation safely–together–or we would both be damaged. Our safety was connected.” Angie immediately began talking to him–how did you get inside? And he would answer, and she would respond, again and again. Freed from the grip of fear, she kept talking. He confided to her that he had no place to go, no place to sleep. Angie told him that he could sleep on the couch downstairs. She gave him blankets, while she stayed up in her room with the door locked all night. In the morning, they shared breakfast together and he left.
The question people are usually left with is whether he would not just go out and do the same thing to someone else. I am of those who are not convinced he would. When we are transformed by the humanizing impulse, by the spirit of someone who harnesses their fear and looks back at us in a way that we see ourselves and our state, we touch something within ourselves that is as necessary as it is fragile–our sense of dignity, and our awareness of that of others.
Shine a mirror on your own humanity today by showing someone else their own.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org