A culture of gentleness is woven into all aspects of the organization – in the people it hires, how each person is mentored, and in the selection and support of individuals and families. This culture is about us as caregivers coming to the people we support in a non-violent way; non-violence is the understanding of what the other person perceives as violent – not what we perceive as violence. In a culture of gentleness, interactions are warm, welcoming and aimed at nurturing relationships based on equality and interdependence. Our focus is on building a sense of companionship and community with those we serve.
A critical part of this culture of gentleness involves shedding some common attitudes that lead to intolerance toward ‘troublesome’ people, such as seeing individuals solely as behavior problems, and being unwilling to express love toward them. A person’s value is not based on their behaviour – what they do, or do not do with us, or for us; it is inherent and unchanging. Once people learn that we value them, they can then learn to value others – that it is good to be with others and do things with others.
The first duty of a caregiver is to assure each person protection from any harm, primarily through a sharp eye on prevention, constant nurturing and loving interactions. The Gentle Teaching approach encompasses a transformation of both the marginalized person and the caregiver. It is not an approach that presents fixed and immutable answers that caregivers follow in a lock step manner. It is one that asks caregivers to interact within a broad framework based on the prevention of harm and the expression of unconditional love. Harm’s prevention often initially involves giving the person what he/she wants, as long as it is not harmful, so that the caregiver can enter the person’s space and begin to teach, “When you are with me, you are safe and loved.” Individuals learn to see their caregivers as authentic companions and to slowly learn to trust others in the broader community. It is not an approach that centers itself on behavioral change. It is an approach that beckons spiritual or internal change.
The use of traditional approaches and practices based on control and compliance emphasize the changing of the other person; Gentle Teaching challenges caregivers to change themselves and base their interventions and relationships on unconditional love. COR asks its caregivers to see themselves as companions to marginalized persons; for it is the responsibility of the caregiver to initiate and initially present and sustain this mutual transformation process.