We Are About: Responding to Violence with Curiosity

Our fellow tribemember Gigi, who early on suggested that we add to the JTN manifesto a commitment to look out at the world with and through eyes of love, also offered up the following:

Responding to violence with curiosity, rather than anger or judgment.

I believe curiosity is the starting point for compassion.

Curiosity gets us exploring outside the lines of our own experience. It opens up the possibility for someone else's story to hold more than we immediately see. It meets us in a place of being willing to learn.

Consider this:

  • How often do you experience curiosity in your daily life?
  • Is curiosity a source of delight for you, or does it scare you?

I can see how curiosity holds the potential to provoke fear. To be curious implies meeting up against something we don't yet know and therefore don't yet understand. It requires humility from us, an acknowledgment that realities exist beyond our personal experience of them.

It allows the world -- and the people in it -- to be larger than the container we've thus far held them in.

On the road to nonviolence, curiosity becomes an essential component of learning to love our enemies.

This is because curiosity is rooted in the acknowledgment that all human stories and all of reality are more complex and mysterious than we can imagine or pin down. From this acknowledgement, we come to regard our enemies as larger than their immediate actions.

We give them the dignity of their whole story.

What's more, we want to understand it.

This is a tough one, isn't it?

Here's what that can look like in practice.

A few weeks ago, a friend told me about some scenes in a couple movies I've been meaning to watch. In one (and I apologize for the explicit details about to be mentioned), a key character was beaten and killed by a group of people because of his sexual orientation. In another, a transgendered person was gang-raped and murdered.

When I heard these details, I was initially stunned. The violent acts were so gruesome and devastating, I felt my heart squeeze with pain that any person could sustain such aggression against their personhood.

But in the next moment, my heart squeezed with pain for a different reason.

I couldn't get these questions out of my mind:

  • What caused them to do it?
  • What beliefs and fears led them to such violent acts?
  • How had they come to believe and fear those things?
  • Did they really understand what they had done?

I wished so much that I could understand the individuals who had done those things. I wished they were real people of whom I could earn the right to ask.

I think it is this kind of curiosity that creates in us a love for those we would normally consider our enemies. Rather than anger or judgment, we ask questions. We wonder at their stories.

And our hearts break because of them.

What about you?

How easy or difficult is it for you to respond with curiosity to people you'd normally consider your enemies?