“Trusting one another, however, can never mean trusting with the lips and mistrusting with the heart.”
–Gandhi (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXV, p. 279)
The violent approach to security states that trusting is naive, that you cannot really trust anyone, so you may as well not even try. One part of raising the human image to make nonviolence possible, therefore, is renewing our ability to trust one another– how can we build a system of cooperation and empathy while at the same time distrusting those with whom we work? Trust is a fundamental, a sine-qua-non of nonviolent action. And, let’s face it: most anyone who has taken a workshop on peacemaking and nonviolence has at least once experienced, if not watched, the ice-breaking “trust fall” game, where you stand with your back to someone and let them catch you in their arms. Kind of corny, right?
But think about it: when it comes to leadership in nonviolent movements, might we be trusting one another with our lips and mistrusting one another with our hearts? I sometimes wonder if the “everyone’s a leader” approach we see in the United States in particular–which seems to be empowerment on the surface– is not partially, if not actually, a statement that hides our distrust of one another. Choosing and working with a leader, or leadership group, after all, is the only way we can follow through on an agreed-upon strategic agenda. Instead of eschewing leadership all together in the name of empowerment, we might simply reassess how we choose leaders to lead nonviolent movements, what qualities we seek, and trust them once we choose them. This does not mean not holding them accountable, though it does mean really trusting. This was actually Gandhi’s approach. It’s kind of a frightening proposition, isn’t it? But what is more empowering than trusting one another?
Food for thought, as they say.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
What are some qualities that a nonviolent leader or leadership group might possess? Is there one quality on this list that you would like to work on developing in yourself?
Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.