Refraining from harm, not out of fear, but out of concern for others, their well-being and out of respect is non-violence. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
I like this quote as it is a great way of defining non-violence. Yes, it’s a lack of violence, but why? That’s where this quote shines. It discusses refraining from harming others for four reasons.
The first is specifically stated that non-violence is not a path taken out of fear. Instead, the quote continues, it is defined as something done out of concern for others, as violence, in general isn’t something that others usually enjoy.
It then specifically mentions being non-violent for the well-being of others. That seems pretty logical, as violence is rarely good for their well-being, right? It finishes by mentioning respect. Can you both be violent and respectful at the same time? I do most seriously doubt it.
Non-violence is, according to this quote, something we do because we want to, and because we care for and respect our fellow human beings. Not out of fear, or any other negative emotion.
Why is caring for others important?
As usual, let’s start by imagining the opposite. Imagine not caring about others. Having no concern for their well-being. Having no respect for them as human beings. In that mind-set, how easy is it to consider violence as something that might be acceptable?
Going back to caring, if you care for others, if you have concern for their well-being, if you respect them as human beings, it’s going to be much harder to contemplate using violence against them. That’s part of the reason why so many wars start with propaganda to dehumanize the enemy.
If we try to keep a caring heart, to view all the people around us as human, we can more easily keep our violent urges at bay. As we get better at being caring, we get better at being non-violent. Not because of fear, but because we care. I can think of few things more worthy to try to achieve.
Where can I apply this in my life?
While it’s easy to say we care, the words alone aren’t much help to others. The words might provide a little comfort but nothing of any substance. So I would try to find ways to show that I care. How do you show others that you care about them, their well-being, and that you respect them?
There are many ways I try to do these things. They vary based on my mood (I’m not always the enlightened sage I pretend to be on the internet) as well as the person or persons with whom I am interacting. Some people are harder to care about or respect, based on how they treat you, right?
But not being nice, especially when others are not nice, that says as much about you as it does about them, doesn’t it? So it is up to us to get past their attitude and be a caring person, despite their issues. It can be difficult at first, but with practice it gets a little easier.
Some of the things I try to do to show I have concern and respect for them include simple things like smiling or saying “Hi.” And sometimes, that’s all the more that is needed. Can you remember a time when that was enough to help you cope with what was going on in your life? I know I can.
Other times, it’s more appropriate to do other things. Holding open a door for someone following you into a building is one of my go-to items. When someone holds open a door for me, it not only acknowledges me as a person, but as a person of sufficient value that they are willing to inconvenience themselves to help me.
What does holding open a door mean to you? How difficult is it to show you care enough to take the time and put in the effort to do this for someone else? Is that a way of showing respect for them? I believe it is, and that’s part of why I try to do it when I can.
What other ways can you show you care? It might not always be appropriate to ask someone if they need help, or why they are crying. Sometimes just handing them a handkerchief or tissue is sufficient. Sometimes a smile is all you can give, other times a big hug is what is proper. It depends on the person, right?
Take a moment and think of the times others have shown their concern for you, or shown you respect. How did you feel? Now take another moment or two to think of the times when you have done that for others. How did you feel? Do you think it’s worth the effort to care for others?
Do you think you will remember to do these things, as well as whatever else you believe proper for the situation? Do you think that this attitude of caring and respect will make it easier to be non-violent? It has for me, and I hope it does for you as well.