This week marked the passing of Gene Sharp, expert in nonviolent resistance. I had the honor of meeting Prof. Sharp during my studies at divinity school, and was struck by his firm conviction that principles without strategy were not very useful, and that strategies could be studied and documented and shared. His work has been used by peaceful resistors from Ukraine to Egypt to Wall Street, often to dramatic and world-changing effect.
The class that Dr. Sharp visited was focused on Gandhi, and Gene made the point that Gandhi was a brilliant strategist:
Gandhi knew that the circle that he and his group of believers in ahimsa (nonviolence) made up would always remain minuscule…. In order to have a wider impact he had to operate on the political level with many people who would never accept that belief. Melting the hearts of oppressors is irrelevant. Pocketbook melting, that’s relevant.
Whatever our work, whatever our convictions, we spend so much time trying to win battles — intellectual, operational, and even physical. What if we used all that energy to widen the circle instead?
Dear Honeybees, if we’ve been leading with our hearts, let’s add a little strategizing, so that our hearts can stay strong.
And if we’ve been strategizing all the livelong day, for goodness’ sake, let’s add a little heart, so that our strategy has a soul.
Gene Sharp would approve.
You can read more about Professor Sharp in this memorial from the NY Times, and you can read more about his work at the Einstein Institution website.