World events notwithstanding, and all representations to the contrary, the sanctity of human life is the most commonly agreed upon value by the world’s diverse religions and cultures. When we adopt this value as one of our values, when we take it into the core of our being, it changes how we live and work in the world. As you set your core values, eschewing violence is a good place to start.
As part of the hearings currently going on in Washington, D.C. regarding the events of September 11, 2001 and what, if anything, could have been done to stop the violence, there has been frequent mention of the so-called “pre 9/11 mentality.” This mentality, which predominated in the government and in the culture at large, rejected the overwhelming use of violence and war as acceptable means of resolving differences and international conflicts.
So Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert who served under four U.S. Presidents, spent decades calling for decisive military action against known and suspected terrorist cells around the world. His recommendations were largely ignored or rejected, however, because the American people just wouldn’t support a substantial commitment of resources and personnel around the world. Or, to quote the President’s National Security Advisor, because America was not “on a war footing.”
All that changed, of course, in the wake of September 11. Suddenly there was a “let’s roll,” “do whatever it takes” mentality to root out the scourge of evil in the world. And those in charge of U.S. affairs have taken that as a green light for a much broader use of violence and war in the world community.
But is this really what people want? And does it make the world a safer place to be? Those questions, too, are now being investigated and hotly debated.
Fortunately, we don’t have to start the conversation from scratch. As we seek to develop and practice our own core values, we can be coached by the teachings and wisdom of religions and cultures around the world. And if there is one, near universal truth, it is the sanctity of human life and the importance of eschewing violence in the resolution of human conflicts. Consider the following representative statements, all written long before September 11:
- “Humankind can get out of violence only through nonviolence. Hatred can be overcome only by love. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred.” Mahatma Gandhi (Hindu)
- “For years now, we have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can we just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. The alternative to nonviolence may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat transformed into an inferno.” Martin Luther King, Jr. (Christian, Protestant)
- “Through Gandhi and my own life experience, I have learned about nonviolence. I believe that human life is a very special gift from God, and that no one has a right to take that away in any cause, however just. I am convinced that nonviolence is more powerful than violence.” Cesar Chavez (Christian, Catholic)
- “Abstaining from the taking of life gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. This is the first gift, the first great gift, that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is not faulted by knowledgeable people.” Abhisanda Sutta (Buddhist)
- “The sanctity of human life is a core value of Islam, but so is the duty to fight “tumult and oppression” to the end. Unless Muslims forsake the methods of violence, they cannot follow these seemingly contradictory injunctions. In fact, since nonviolent alternatives to violence do exist, Muslims have no alternative but to utilize nonviolent action in the contemporary world if they want to be true to the faith.” The Nonviolent Crescent (Muslim)
- “When confronted with an unbroken cycle of violence, Jews are not commanded to be God’s accountants. Our rightful mission is to “to negotiate and to compromise,” (Sanhedrin 6b) to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:15).” Rabbi David Osachy (Jewish)
Do your core values eschew violence? “Eschew” means to “avoid and stay away from deliberately.” In other words, eschewing violence represents an intentional and deliberate act of will. It is not an aversion to conflict, let alone an act of cowardice, but a way of being that respects the humanity and life of both friends and foes, allies and enemies. If such an intention is not among your core values, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider.
In 1993, in Chicago, long before the current round of “holy” and “just” wars, the second Parliament of the World’s Religions identified the “commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life” as the common ground and starting value point for human behavior amongst the diverse religions and cultures of the world. Their Declaration, signed by representatives of every major faith, notes:
- “All people have a right to life, safety, and the free development of personality in so far as they do not injure the rights of others.”
- “No one has the right physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill, any other human being.”
- “No people, no state, no race, and no religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to ‘cleanse’, to exile, much less to liquidate a ‘foreign’ minority which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs.”
- “Conflicts should be resolved without violence within a framework of justice. This is true for states as well as for individuals.”
- “Persons who hold political power must work within the framework of a just order and commit themselves to the most non-violent, peaceful solutions possible. And they should work for this within an international order of peace which itself has need of protection and defense against perpetrators of violence.”
- “Young people must learn at home and in school that violence may not be a means of settling differences with others.”
- “To be authentically human means we must never be ruthless and brutal. Every people, every race, every religion must show tolerance and respect • indeed high appreciation • for every other. Minorities need protection and support, whether they be racial, ethnic, or religious.”
What a different world it would be if these precepts were standard operating procedure! And notwithstanding the events of the 21st century, these precepts are no less important and doable. For some, they will prompt a selfless, sacrificial, and pacifist ethic. But for most, however, they will simply drive us back to the Golden Rule: treating others as we wish others would treat us.
This Golden Rule permeates all that is good and right about human community. It is at once ancient and timely. There is no defense for violence, either as a first or last resort, since violence always plants the seeds of more violence and leads, ultimately, to more problems than it solves. Especially in a world where the instruments of violence have become increasingly massive and widespread.
Whenever violence is chosen as a strategy to right a perceived wrong or threat, something has gone profoundly awry in the fabric of human community. By the time one individual, group, or nation seeks to eliminate another, there has generally been a long incubation period with grievances all around. Given the failure it represents, no one can legitimately take pride in violence.
So what’s a person to do?
First, make nonviolence one of your core values. Claim that as part of your core identity. Make it known, to yourself and to others, that you respect the sanctity of human life.
Second, live by the Golden Rule in your dealings with all people. In so far as it depends upon you, live at peace with others. Do not discriminate based upon age, race, gender, religion, culture, ability, orientation, ethnicity, or any of the other myriad human divisions. Apply the Golden Rule to your every thought, word, and deed.
Third, lift up the intention of peace in your community and throughout the world. If you pray, pray for peace. If you meditate, meditate for peace. If you advocate, advocate for peace. If you write, write for peace. If you give, give for peace. If you work, work for peace. Let your intention be your guide. Once the intention is set, opportunities will abound.
If you’ve been wondering where to start in setting your core values, values that impact your life and work with meaning, direction, purpose, focus, and clarity, then a good place to start might be right here. Eschew violence. It wouldn’t hurt our aching world for a few more souls to rally to the cause.
Coaching Inquiries: What do your values say about violence and the sanctity of life? Have you looked at your life and work through that lens? When you do so, what changes, if any, would you like to make? How could you be more committed to peace?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Your new Provisions’ series focuses on an interesting subject: Global Leadership. There is a new book published called Globalization Domination, Global Leadership. You may want to take a look at it. The author was on the public radio station. Sorry, I did not get the authors name. The book was written to review where the leadership of the USA is headed.
I think the Swami’s work, that you mentioned last week, influenced that of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” which identifies a number of commonalities among the ascent of the leaders of many of the worlds’ religious founders: Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha. Having read the Teachings of the Buddha and the Bible from cover to cover over the past three years, my take on the common denominator across religions is consistent with my grandmother’s mantra: “Just do the best you can with what you have.”
I’m 25 years old and presently residing here in the Philippines. There’s much I don’t like about the way things are going and there’s no career path plus I’m not paid well enough. Up until now I’m still clueless on what to do with my life. I have no money to study, but if ever given the chance I would like to learn Korean or Mandarin and also computer programming. (Ed. Note: Don’t wait for the money to start learning and studying those subjects. Your initiative will generate opportunities.)
I believe that you give advice or teaching based on the whole story. The paragraph on the Christian Oracle told me that. Thank you for your time.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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