The really Restorative Mantra . . . Judge None.

Judge None.

Two very simple words.  I like to play around and develop catch phrases for Restorative Jusitce.  I try to keep my “elevator speech” fresh and I try to keep a good batch of Restorative Jusitce “bumper stickers” handy.  About 6 months ago I came up with Judge None as a concept point.  I was doing a volunteer/speaker training.  I knew in the room I would have victims and offenders, willing to speak for SCVRJP.  I started the session with this concept.  It came to mean even more by the end of that Circle and even more today.

The discussion point I was working on, was encouraging speakers not to judge listeners by their body language.  I explained that for some people, what is going on in the inside, is not always apparent on the outside.  Some people lack skill in aligning what they are feeling with what they are projecting.

Another example is the person who is having their defenses broken down.  Whose heart is being touched.  They may defensively respond with negative behavior.  Maybe they have no idea how to act when they feel shame, or overwhelmed.  The point is you cannot judge someone.  Think how sad you are when you cry, or emotionally touched, yet our faces contort like we swallowed a lemon and we never want anyone to see us.

In the training that day, after I talked about not making judgements on listeners, the talking piece was passed.  A story emerged.  The speaker talked about how he was one of those people that sat slumped in his chair.  He didn’t want to be hearing the speakers, he was court ordered to attend.  He came he did it and he left.  He explained how then he couldn’t stop thinking about it.  How his awareness grew, his cousin died from drinking and driving, another family member committed suicide while under the influence.  He was so moved by the Restorative Justice experience, he came to volunteer.  He was now in the training to become a storyteller.  (this person has been a consistent volunteer for 8 months).  In this same Circle, when an experienced speaker heard this, she was completely moved by knowing her storytelling had that powerful of an impact.  All relationships are bilateral.

You can see people blossom in Circle.  Kids will start out, hood down, body language shut down.  Some start with one word answers, and you wonder if they will come around.  At the end they had the most profound change.  You just can’t judge what is happening on the inside by what you see on the outside.

One of our volunteers said something to me, about a particular person in a Circle.  It wasn’t very kind.  I felt bad for a few things.  One the volunteer let that person dictate the Circle experience he had.  When you measure something by what you percieve that someone else did or didn’t get out of it – – your making judgements.  In restorative justice ‘judge none’.  What this volunteer did not know, was that the person he spoke of – – stayed later than everyone else and continued to write out his evaluation comments.  And the feedback was all positive, insightful and appreciative.  From what the volunteer said, this didn’t match up.

The volunteer didn’t stay for the typical volunteer debriefing session.  When you help out as a community member, we have to stay and share in reading evalutions.  Our community members are part of the program, they get to review these.  It increases their investment in the outcome.  The debriefing after this Circle, was like many . . . you have amazing written feedback from someone who didn’t know how to give it verbally and socially in the Circle.

Someone that was acting like he didn’t care – wrote how much he appreciated the community members – and what he didn’t like was that he thought some other people weren’t taking the community members serious.

Supportive, kind, loving, caring enviornments they help people change.  The best way to support is to let go of judgements.  Judge None.  Because just like a seed in the ground, you can’t see when change is taking root.

I shared the written feedback with the volunteer, and clarified staying around after a session to debrief.  As it turns out, the volunteer was feeling like time might have been wasted on someone who didn’t get it.  The feedback really helped the community member feel better.  Lessons learned in supporting community member in understanding others.

Judge None.