Values of the Circle
The core values of the Community Circles in Washington County are reflective of both the necessary qualities, which need to be present for each Circle to have meaning, as well as important values of the area communities. No value carries more significance than any other. Participation in the Circle process indicates acceptance of these values both in word and action. The values are interdependent, sharing certain features among them.
Respect acknowledges the dignity and worth of each individual. It ensures that every participant experiences acceptance into the Circle, and ensures that everyone is heard with equality. It requires every participant listen to everyone else. Respect means that all members of the Circle participate within the guidelines set by the Circle. Furthermore, respect is critical in achieving the consensus decision-making necessary for Circles to be successful.
Respect is also important in understanding the concept of honoring the talking piece. When others are holding the talking piece, it is important for participants to view the piece as an opportunity for reflection. When the talking piece is held out for open discussion, it continues to have importance and should be honored by conducting discussion in a respectful manner. The talking piece is a symbol of the interconnectedness and shared responsibility of the participants in the Circle, and it should be held respectfully.
The strength of character to recognize the humanness of self and others, and to be inclusive and thankful for everyone’s participation in Circle, is to have humility. Humility helps create partnership between participants. Humility is closely tied with the value of honesty, mostly in terms of honesty with self.
Compassion indicates a genuine concern for the welfare of others. For the supportive relationships of Circles to be built, participants need to enter the Circle process open to feeling compassion for the others whom they will join on the Circle journey.
A compassionate focus on harm, combined with the flexibility of Circles, allows victims to be involved in the Circle process in whatever ways are comfortable for them. This harm-focus opens the Circle to visiting many issues which may underlie the committing of the offense, and which would probably not otherwise be acknowledged. Compassion felt by Circle participants enables the Circle to take positive action to repair those issues, which contributed to the harm done.
Spirituality celebrates the wholeness of each person and the oneness of the Circle. It allows all participants to speak from the heart, so that everyone can share with each other in the spirit of moving beyond conflict together, to find understanding and healing. Holding a Circle means creating a sacred space, where these values are honored.
Accountability is an indisputably important element in the Circle process; trust is necessary for accountability. But neither of them can be achieved without honesty. People need the support of others to make affirmative changes in their lives, and honesty is the basis for building those strong relationships within communities. Furthermore, dishonesty can quickly result in hostile feelings, which undermine the Circle process. Therefore it is necessary for each participant to strive for honesty with themselves and others, and to speak with honesty in a Circle so that victims, offenders, and other Circle participants can view the Circle process as a positive experience.