Compassion after Grievous Harm

February 20, 2012

The story behind this posting is already familiar to many. It’s not new, but I wanted to share it because of the way it exemplifies how an individual, even when grievously harmed, can respond with compassion.

It’s about Trevor Greene, a Canadian who, in Afghanistan in 2006 , was severely wounded by an axe to his skull wielded by a sixteen year old boy during an otherwise peaceful meeting of Canadian peacekeepers and Pashtun village elders. Greene had taken his helmet off as a gesture of respect.

Details of this horrifying incidence and its aftermath are widely available and have made medical history. Here are just a handful of the many links:–how-capt-trevor-greene-came-back-from-an-afghan-axe-to-the-head

But it’s Trevor Greene’s amazing compassion that I want to share here.

Greene, after he emerged from a lengthy coma, was able to forgive his young attacker (who was shot and killed at the time of the attack) and Greene expresses regret and apologies for the fact that the young man lost his life. This beautiful compassion is strikingly similar to what Marshall Rosenberg advocates as part of his philosophy of nonviolent communication (NVC).

One interview with Rosenberg is especially interesting to me because it led me to make the connection between the ideas of NVC and the actions of Trevor Greene and also addresses the protective use of force.

Rosenberg’s work focuses on meeting the needs of individuals. He says: “Conflicts, even of long standing duration, can be resolved if we can just keep the flow of communication going in which people come out of their heads and stop criticizing and analyzing each other, and instead get in touch with their needs, and hear the needs of others, and realize the interdependence that we all have in relation to each other. We can’t win at somebody else’s expense. We can only fully be satisfied when the other person’s needs are fulfilled as well as our own.”

When Trevor Greene spoke of his attacker, he acknowledged needs in the village and needs related to the boy and his family. Later Greene said “you can’t hate and heal at the same time.” I believe it’s a message the world needs to hear.

And here’s some classic Rosenberg that addresses healing at a different level – the intimate family level.