The problem with someone else’s potential

I have been practicing and teaching the principles of Nonviolent Communication for fifteen years, and I still find one of the principles of NVC both challenging and undeniably profound.

It is this: If my intention is to change someone, in any way, it is an act of violence.

I have experienced this principle most directly in my own life through the seemingly innocent ideal of not seeing someone how they are, but instead seeing their “potential” and who they “could” be… followed by the words “if only they…”.

And even while my intentions might’ve been pure, the problem is that my desire for someone else to reach a place where they aren’t already implies only one thing: they are not okay just as they are.

“If only they could see what I see…!”

We communicate to each other in energy and when we energetically tell another that we do not accept who they are right now (ie. when we desire them to change), we stop loving them.

For me, the direct experience of love is to enter fully into this moment, as it is, with the other person, just as they are, in everything that is coming up for them.

And importantly, the same principle applies to our energetic communication with ourselves.

When I can have compassion for myself, for the parts of me that I don’t like, and have argument with, and connect with the precious human needs this part is trying to meet… for love, or belonging, or to matter, or for care… then I can soften and relax and somehow come to peace with the world and myself again. And then, amazingly, I have compassion for others, exactly where they are.

This direct experience of love is one of our most profound truths and somewhat ironically (given that wanting to change anyone is an act of violence), it is also the foundation for all change. Because when we love another just as they are, without wanting to shift them, we are together in a field of acceptance and love.

And that is where we find peace, ways forward become clear, and all the shift happens.
With love,