What is your character?
It’s the only thing you really own. It can’t be taken from you. Things that test it, only make you stronger. People that push you, hurt you, challenge you can be a gift when you allow your character to grow. The human experience is that journey through our challenges.
Your character is your values. Your character is your view of your experiences.
We start Circles with the courage to sit and face each other. We extend an invitation to be community. The deepest community experience, I believe, is a Circle. To take time to face each other, no tables, no pre-written agenda or prescribed outcomes.
In Circles we talk about our values, specifically our relationship values. When I train and teach on restorative justice I make sure to explain a few things about values. Our values are standards and principles that we use to guide our actions. Its listening to the voice inside about what you “should” do, rather than what you want or have to do.
Our values are the shared concept of society, we assume others have the same values as we do, and that is not always true. Our value development, can get stunted by early neglect, weak role models or bonds that demonstrate these values. We are quick to judge others about their values and we give little time to consider where they developed.
I believe talking about values in Circles really helps people understand them. Values are kind of abstract. What does ‘justice’, ‘peace’, ‘respect’ look like, feel like, sound like. Instead of trying to create our own understanding we speak to each other in Circles and that multiplies our understanding. I call that cross-pollination, my understanding about values are shared with stories. My stories teach you and your stories teach me. I can quickly identify my own fathers protection after you share a story about your Dad providing and protecting you.
It takes courage to sit and share these things. It also takes courage to hold the Circle values, after the Circle has disbanded. The people who have been most dis-satisfied or critical of Restorative Justice are the people I observed to leave the process. By “leave” the process, I mean restort to being judgmental, critical and generally feeling like they had unmet needs. The claim then is that the Circle “didn’t work”. I can take that it doesn’t work for everyone. In the many, many circles and people I have seen, there are very FEW and I mean few it doesn’t work well for.
Circles are a chance to be in community with others. Where else do we get this opportunity, this invitation to share our character? If you bring the courage of who you are, and bring your character to a circle, I’m sure you will be one of the many helped.