Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. writes at the beginning of his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:
“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart. Believing that it is in our nature to enjoy giving and receiving in a compassionate manner, I have been preoccupied most of my life with two questions. What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively? And conversely, what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature even under the most trying circumstances?”
These are my questions as well and I have spent much of my life in pursuit of the answers. My last major paper in seminary was on the topic of violence in humanity, a topic chosen after witnessing an especially ugly church fight. Although we profess love, compassion and peace as core values, we are immersed in the cultural sea of domination and control. And because our humanity is uniquely expressed through language, it is language that often precedes and escalates violence.
Rosenberg tells his story and offers a different way, a more excellent way to express ourselves. He calls it nonviolent communication, a way of communicating from the heart. As Christians we believe the language of life came to us as the living Word, Jesus, Human Being, Savior, Christ. Our challenge is that we are fluent in the language of the culture but not the language of life.
I invite you to join me in a conversation about communication and to consider becoming fluent in a new language. On Sunday May 26 and Sunday June 2, I will host two forums at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral where we will begin to learn about this new language. Like any spiritual practice, it requires work, discipline and play. It is the way of Jesus who came and stood among the disciples and said, “Peace be with you.”
I hope to see you there!
The Very Rev. Rebecca McClain is the interim Dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, California. For more information about this forum, please visit www.stpaulcathedral.org or call 619-298-7261.