A number of people and organizations have gone out of their way lately to tell me that they are non-violent. They remind me of people who go out of their way to tell me that they are not racists. Not sexists. Not homophobic.
It’s a tell.
Let’s take a look at what a person who earnestly professes to be non-violent might actually be telling you:
- I am unaware that all human beings, including myself, are violent. I am also unaware that I am suppressing or re-channeling my violent tendencies to participate more fully in a civilized society. Because my self-awareness is low, I’m unpredictable and dangerous.
- I know darn well that I’m a violent person. I’m going to lie and pretend to be I’m something I’m not. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing: don’t trust me.
Either way, if anyone seriously tries to sell you that they are non-violent: it’s a cause for suspicion. Actually, if anyone ever leads with a line about being anti- or non- anything (in a way that isn’t meant as parody) it’s a cause for suspicion.
Perpetually speaking in the language of non- and anti- is feeble, defensive, and reactionary. Instead of speaking in terms of anti-violence, anti-GMO, anti-gun, anti-fracking, anti-bullying, anti-wimp, anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-vaccine, anti-science, anti-anything: why not start by stating what you actually stand for, instead of what you stand against?
Reframe the conversation.
If we only live to rail against some cause, action, person, or principle that we don’t like, we’re a huge part of the problem. Our words and actions can support and strengthen the frame of what it is that we say we are against.
Here’s an exercise for positively framing your core message: state what it is that you stand for. If you can only frame what you stand for in terms of what you are against, try again. And keep trying.
Hint: this exercise may or may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. With a deeper understanding and awareness, we may find ourselves participating in more meaningful, truthful, and helpful conversations.