Ghandi taught his disciples that whenever we make anyone (ourselves or others) wrong (even in our thoughts), THAT is the seed of violence. What a challenging perspective for self-righteous pacifists! But it IS clearly the seed of division, and division is the essential first step toward violence.
Long before Ghandi, Jesus taught his disciples to withhold judgment, saying that we will be treated in the same manner which we choose to treat others, and urged them to choose mercy rather than judgment. He was known for his compassion and mercy rather than his adherence to the Laws of justice laid out by Moses before him. His message of non-violent resistance to evil was one he demonstrated clearly in his own life and death. His Sermon on the Mount could be summed up by saying, “Moses taught you justice, and I will teach you mercy.”
I, for one, have spent too much of my life sitting in judgment of other people, and I’ve seen the fruit in my heart and mind - it is life-sucking poison. If I will reap what I sow,then I want to sow mercy, empathy, compassion and connection. I’ve experienced enough judgment and division to know that it leads to nothing of value.
So, how can we avoid making people wrong and still exercise reason? I’m taking a course on nonviolent communication which delves deeply into this topic. The fundamental assumption is that EVERYTHING anyone does or says is an attempt to meet an innate need. We may have tragic strategies for getting these needs met which actually serve to counter our efforts (violence being one of many), but they are still attempts to fulfill our needs. A child may throw a tantrum in an attempt to get her fundamental need for connection met, or to meet the need for autonomy and choice.
Nonviolence begins with releasing people from the violence of our judgment and learning to see, with empathy, the underlying need that the person is trying to fill. Compassion and empathy are born when we see the sameness of our human needs, and relate to the person’s struggle to fill them.