Nonviolence is difficult to define because it is not just the absence of violence. Some say it is the opposite of violence. It has been called ‘love in action’ and ‘the antidote of violence’. Nonviolence is a term that includes a large number of reactive and proactive ways of making a difference. It can bring about change as it heals relationships on the path to equality.
Nonviolence is an attitude towards other people that guides how we apply the ‘rules of behaviour.’ It defies violence and deprives it of victory. Nonviolence disarms an aggressor without using violence. Nonviolent discipline can be aggressively confrontational, and even take a zero tolerance stand in holding people accountable for their violent behaviour, without resorting to any kind of punishment. Imposing a punishment often sets up a cycle of revenge that prevents any worthwhile lesson being learned. People learn more effectively what acceptable and responsible behaviour is by experiencing the real consequences of their actions.
One of the great advantages of nonviolent discipline in the home, school or workplace is the distinction it makes between punishment and consequences. Nonviolence includes a long list of things under the heading of ‘Taking Restorative Action’ that can be used instead of imposing punishment. This is not just spin because ‘taking restorative action’ and ‘imposing a punishment’ are mutually exclusive opposites. We cannot think in both ways at the same time. However, you sometimes take restorative action, depending on the circumstances of a situation, because everyone is capable of thinking in both ways, just not at the same time. That is the choice we can make.
Parents can introduce kids to the ways of nonviolence in the very first year of a child’s life. School children can be taught the art of nonviolence from day one. And it's never too late to start yourself. It won’t always work in every situation because we are all influenced by the institutional, structural and social violence built into the culture we live in. Once we become aware of how our own attitude is affected, we can help children to be nonviolent in a violent world and, in that way, change at least their part of that world.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.