Rendering Harmless Doctrine: A Compassionate Response to Aggession

by Charles Day*

The Rendering Harmless Doctrine advocates responding to aggression with understanding and compassion and offers a way to honor and reconcile the duty to defend oneself, family, nation, and world with the religious, spiritual, and humanitarian principles of compassion, forgiveness, non-violence, and pacifism.

All responses to aggression by individuals, groups, and nations should be motivated by understanding and compassion—not anger, revenge, or retaliation—with the intention of rendering aggressors harmless—not to harm or punish them. Motives, methods, and goals should aim at ending the suffering that both causes and results from aggression and restoring peace and harmony for all concerned, perpetrators as well as victims.

The Rendering Harmless Doctrine is based on three assumptions. First, individuals—not gangs, mobs, cells, or nations—are responsible for aggression, assault, mayhem, terrorism, atrocities, genocide, and war. Second, these individuals, acting alone, as group members, or as leaders of nations, can cause such horrific harm that reasonable persons are morally obligated to stop them, using peaceful means and legal authority whenever possible. And third, history reveals, religions teach, and social and psychological studies confirm that anger begets anger, aggression begets aggression, and war begets war. Responding with anger and aggression only causes, aggravates, and perpetuates the cycle of anger and aggression, either immediately or in the long run.........

Click here to read, print, or download this entire essay. The implications and applications of the Doctrine are discussed in the rest of the article. This is an expanded version of a previous essay.