The Restorative Revolution

train tracks

Photo by foxrosser on Flickr

Call me crazy – but I think we are ready for a Revolution. 

I’m talking about a revolution in the way we approach justice, transgression, punishment, crime, and every day conflict among ordinary people. I am talking about the way we treat each other after we hurt each other – even in very deep ways – and the way we treat those who are less powerful than us when “justice” is placed in our hands.

I am talking a transformational, society-wide, lens-shifting, all-affecting revolution the scale of the 1960’s civil rights and women’s rights movements, a revolution in how we think about who we are and how we live, work, and love together.

Not a solution to everything. Not panacea, utopia, peace and love for all. But a fundamental shift in the collective understanding of what might be possible.

I feel it in my bones, like the rumble of a train coming down the tracks way before you see its lights appear from behind the bend.

People are sensing the heavy creaking of the current justice system, the way it is over-burdened and under-humane, the way it takes our sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and puts them back into our communities more hardened and less integrated than they were before, the way it creates rifts among us, decreasing rather than increasing the sense of safety for which we all long.

And people are becoming dissatisfied with the way we inadvertently replicate that same model in our homes, with people most precious to us, and in our communities, the places where we spend our waking hours.

I work with a lot of communication modalities and I have been talking to people about empathy and healing and dialogue for a long time.

But when I mention the restorative practices work in which I am involved, people respond with the kind of excitement, the kind of energy I have not seen before. Their eyes light up. They smile.  They want to learn more. They want to get involved.

I am talking about people across all economic, class, age, and race differences: administrators working in the formal justice system and grandmothers of boys in the local jail, academics and activists, rabbis and conservative ministers, teachers and parents, college students and poets. When I share what might be possible, there is a spark, an electrical surge of hope.

And what is possible is a way of doing conflict and justice in which each voice and each side gets heard, in which people who have been hurt get to ask their toughest questions and those who have caused pain get to experience the impact of what they have done and come out feeling more human, not less. What is possible are solutions to conflicts that are not believable until you hear them, that stem from human creativity that is untapped by the current way we do things, and are agreed upon by everyone who is impacted by the conflict.

Restorative practices, as ancient as human society, have been making their way back into our collective knowledge. Some of them, like the Restorative Circles practice which I have been learning, are laced with a modern edge, an edge forged in the fires of inner-city Brazilian favelas where drugs, gun violence, racialized tensions and numbing poverty overlay the struggle for daily survival.

And that is what makes the possibility so palpable. There is another way and it works. It works to re-humanize people to each other in the most trying of circumstances across deeply etched lines. In a place where unbelievable beauty and unbelievable disparity go hand in hand, restorative practices are growing and being embraced by school districts, youth courts, youth prisons, neighborhoods and homes, presidential candidates and major news networks. Restorative Circles are winning awards and changing circumstances, changing lives, changing how people think about and live with conflict.

Not a solution to everything. Not panacea, utopia, peace and love for all. But a fundamental shift in the collective understanding of what might be possible.

A Restorative Revolution.  It’s coming.

Wanna get on board?

About Elaine Shpungin

Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D. is a writer, parent, and practitioner of Restorative Circles (RC) and NonViolent Communication (NVC). Her writing has appeared in PsychologyToday.com, Tikkun Magazine, and edited books on pop culture themes (e.g., The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, House M.D.). You can read her essays on conflict, parenting and love at www.ImproveCommunication.net and www.RestorativeRevolution.com
This entry was posted in inspiration, life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Restorative Revolution

  1. Greetings! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using
    for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems
    with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  2. Great blog here! Also your site loads up fast!
    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to
    your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  3. Excellent blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..

    Any suggestions? Kudos!

We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s