Ashland Center for Nonviolence Blog

Reflections on a Habit of Forgiveness

Nothing defines the human ordeal more than failure. History shows its clientele very little in the realm of certainty, but the theme which reverberates consistently from Constantinople to Coronavirus is that of painful failure. What sets a respectable few people apart in this long train of abuses is the recurrence of determination and forgiveness. The nonviolence movement boasts a roster of persistent, obstinate, diverse men and women; yet, we also admire them for their incredible penchant for forgiving their most bitter rivals. One of the most common and overlooked sins in this world is the bitter grudge. The tendency of man to seek revenge for the most trivial of insults is the spark of inestimable amounts of war, persecution, and abuse. Of course, forgiveness takes time, and social injustice leaves permanent scars. I suspect that my readers will think as I am of recent occurrences of police brutality and racial prejudice in law and order and find it practically impossible to feel forgiveness at this time. It has been years since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and few Americans, even those who believe that God teaches to forgive those who trespass against us, would say they have forgiven al-Qaeda. Even though I was too young to remember the events of that day as they happened, I struggle to give up my pride and disgust and trust the matter to God’s final justice.With this understanding of how difficult it is to forgive, I must point out that forgiveness is more of a continual undertaking than it is an instantaneous decision. Aristotle describes virtuosity as a habit; it is a muscle to be exercised and strengthened rather than a piece of clear truth which provides immediate enlightenment. This definition firmly fits how forgiveness works in this world of hate. Whether you are...Read more

Nonviolence for Positive Change

"What does nonviolence mean to you at a time like this?”
In a word: everything.
Nonviolence is the practical representation of my love and respect for humanity given my deep concern with current conditions.
I write a lot, in my efforts to promote peace and justice I’ve written nearly 100 op-eds (syndicated by PeaceVoice here) since Donald Trump was elected. Thinking about peace, caring about peace, and declaring fidelity to causes of justice are good, but nonviolence is the strategic avenue for acting on these promises and upholding my values.
It is challenging and deeply personal.
On May 30th, 2020 I joined thousands of protesters at the “Free Stamp” (a sculpture, of a stamp, emblazoned with the word “Free”) in downtown Cleveland. We were assembled to express support for Black Lives and to join the chorus decrying the suffering we experienced in witnessing the murder of George Floyd. We marched and chanted.
On May 30th, I was also attacked—by my own government—with chemical weapons. Without warning, or an order to disperse, the Cleveland Police Department attacked civilians with chemical munitions (including teargas). [In recent weeks I have issued my complaint and provided evidence regarding this violation, I trust positive changes will be made.]
On the drive home I felt these tears inside me. I have taught nonviolence for over a decade; it was the late 90s when I last threw a punch. I’m committed to nonviolence for personal, practical, and spiritual reasons (as imperfect as I am) and I cannot recall a time I felt stronger retributive and vengeful desires. By the time I arrived home I had processed my feelings, the lingering chemical residue lingered in my nostrils for another couple days…
I do not mean to be gratuitous, but without training in nonviolence I know anger would get the best of me. I would...Read more

A Wonder Woman State of Mind

“Now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.” --Diana (Wonder Woman), Wonder Woman movie

Has my fascination and admiration of this Wonderful superhero gone so far as to permeate into a blog post meant to highlight my current thoughts of peace and nonviolence? While the obvious answer is a definite “yes,” I do not believe that it is something to be frowned upon, and I write today to share with you why that is.
Each day I realize more and more that the world we are currently living in is an odd mix of uncertainty, ignorance, disregard for human life, and positive, progressive, and compelling change. A global pandemic has not only amassed great uncertainty on multiple fronts, but also has unearthed and exposed blatant ignorance and disregard for human life that exists in so many individuals. By this I am referring to those who consistently refuse to wear a mask, commit themselves to haphazard arguments that attempt to negate science, and do not believe that COVID-19 poses a very real and dangerous threat. On a more optimistic note, immense change is occurring, and by this I am referring to the rising consciousness of the blatant racism that for centuries has poisoned our system, jeopardized and taken the lives of people of color, and crumbled our societal well being.
So what does Wonder Woman have to do with this, anyway? Well, it should be noted that my favorite superhero of all time has faced plenty of evil villains in her comic and cinema lifetimes. Even though Wonder Woman is generally involved in head-to-head conflicts with a singular super-villain,...Read more

Nonviolent Communication and Compassionate Confrontation

“Never put your ‘but’ in the face of an angry person” --Marshall Rosenberg
These certainly are polarized, politically charged, turbulent times in our society. A myriad of issues--including systemic racism, police brutality and economic inequality--call for our attention. And, in the midst of this, we all have family members or friends who see the world differently and act in ways that we judge to be unjust, violent or harmful. How is it possible to relate to those whom we deem to be “on the other side?”
Principles developed by Marshall Rosenberg and implemented through an organization that he founded, the Center for Nonviolent Communication (, have been helpful to me when considering these issues. For those who aren’t familiar with Rosenberg’s work, a good place to start would be Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Third edition, 2015) or Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World (2005). While I am somewhat of a newcomer to the approach outlined below, the basic ideas resonate with teachings from the great world religious traditions that I have studied and taught for the past three decades.
What are the components of the nonviolent communication (NVC) process that can help us relate to others with whom we disagree and, even more, diffuse (and perhaps even transform) personal and social conflict? The process begins, first of all, with a nonjudgmental observationof another person’s behavior or the situation in which we find ourselves. Simply speak what we see without evaluation or criticism. This is admittedly tricky since most of us tend to offer value judgments before we realize we are doing it. Secondly, we discern the feelings that arise within us based on our observations. Do we feel hurt or frightened or frustrated or angry? Here...Read more