A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on Restorative Circles. This practice, if I could sum it up in one sentence seems to be about this; we’re going to fight anyway, so let’s make a place for conflict to happen with an intention to value the needs of all people. The inciting incident that calls together a circle is not cause for dehumanizing another. It is a just a strategy that one person choose to meet a universal need that all humans share. The circle gathers so that we might see what harm came from the incident, and through telling our stories, find a way to rehumanize each other – that is, to get at the value and meaning underlying the harmful strategies. The hope is that if we can see that there is a positive motivation behind all actions, we might find the space to formulate restorative actions plans to heal wounds, and change behavior patterns.
Though only my first exposure to Restorative Circles, I see how it is a natural “next step” for the practice of Nonviolent Communication. These circles, founded on the consciousness of peace, compassion, and justice as we see in NVC, offer a structure for changing organizations and societies. The scope is beyond the individual level, for integrated in the restorative theory is that all humans within a society are impacted by conflict, and hence, “responsible” in that as receivers of conflict, we each have a choice on how to act. To not act is also a choice.
I choose to act for restoration, healing, and change. A restorative circle, however, takes place within a restorative system. So my individual choice is not enough. I need a community that elects to journey with me as we commit together for restorative justice.
Now the question before me and perhaps before you as well is this. Which community? My family? My congregation or association of congregations (Unitarian Universalist Association)? The town in which I live? The readers of this blog?
As Dominic Barter, the founder of this system said while in Atlanta, "Why ruin a good question with an answer.?" I ponder on.
Which community might you choose for restorative work?