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August 28, 2012

Do No Harm: A Silly Platitude or a Much-Needed Guideline?

IStock_0womanandangrybossallIn my experience, both in the world and in my practice, one of the core places where men and women struggle is in the way they respond to conflict and upset.  Far too often, both men and women deal with upset by responding in the extreme.  They often yell, scream and control or they silence, placate and over-accommodate.  Naturally none of these moves is particularly helpful and all of them are often harmful.  Sometimes the person is the victim of harm (due to silently accepting poor treatment) and sometimes the person is the perpetrator of the harm (by aggressively responding to poor treatment).

I’m currently leading a teleclass titled “Finding Your GPS” (Grounded Powerful Strength).  A GPS is about walking in the world differently and at its core is the principle of Do No Harm.  Handling upset and conflict without doing harm seems almost unheard of today.  Whether it’s countries at war, politicians fighting during an election, couples trying to heal from an affair or bosses reprimanding their employees, people have given themselves the green light to harm one another.  It’s as though, in the heat of the moment, “anything goes.” 

Below are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

•    Politicians bad-mouthing one another for the purpose of increasing their chances of getting elected.
•    Spouses yelling, screaming, name-calling and even throwing things due to discovering an affair.
•    Countries hunting a leader down and killing him in retaliation for that leader killing others.
•    Friends bad-mouthing one another in response to gossip.
•    and on and on…


It’s time we all started to think differently when it comes to the ways we treat one another when we are upset, hurt, disappointed and even when we are so angry that we can barely see straight.  It’s time to stop thinking that the poor behavior of others is a green light for our own poor behavior.  It isn’t.  When we lash out and attack those who have attacked us, our behavior is no better than theirs.  In life and relationships the right thing to do is to do NO harm.  Period.

When our country and our world learn to take the high road in response to hurtful acts, we will all be better off.  Taking the high road does NOT mean acceptance.  Taking the high road means we don’t become hurtful human beings because others are being hurtful.  Taking the high road means that we set limits where we need to, state our needs when we want to and protect the dignity of all human beings—ourselves included—in the process.  We all have the right to be hurt, sad, disappointed and incredibly angry at the hurtful behaviors of others.  We also have the right to express that anger and hurt directly, powerfully and safely to those who have harmed us.  We do not, however, have the right to harm.

Good people make bad decisions and people get hurt as the result.  Don’t make one person’s bad decision your justification for doing harm.  Take the high road while taking care of yourself.  When we cause harm to others, we harm ourselves; it’s hardly worth the brief satisfaction of revenge.  Take the high road.

Challenge: When you are so angry that you can hardly see straight...PAUSE.  Close your mouth; don’t say a word out loud.  Take a deep breath and remind yourself to, “Do no harm.”  When you’re calm, decide what your next move will be.  Set a limit, make space or find a new job if it’s best to do so.  And…DO NO HARM.





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