Violence

If asked, how many of us would say we reject violence as a solution to the world’s problems? We condemn the brutality of IS; we are uneasy about the war in Syria; we are queasy about the so-called ‘intifada of knives’ in Israel/Palestine. As Remembrance Sunday approaches, we are even, at times, equivocal about the wars fought against imperialism and fascism in the twentieth century. It is all conveniently ‘out there’. Then we switch on the T.V. or radio or dip into Social Media and discover the violence is not ‘out there’ at all. It is within each of us, and it is beginning to make monsters of us.

You may think that last statement over the top, but think for a moment. How often do we encounter vehement language and insults in situations where they are inappropriate or counter-productive? We do not need to tell a prominent politician to ‘**** off’. We’d do much better to argue a case he/she has to answer, but we are too lazy to do that. Much easier to rant and rage instead. During the recent Synod on the Family we were treated, if that is the right word, to endless bandying of insults and accusations which achieved nothing of value. Much of the violence we express has, objectively speaking, little to do with the situation we are allegedly upset about but everything to do with us. We want to vent our own feelings, and sometimes we forget that doing so may have a negative effect on others. Perhaps we don’t care. What matters is us and our views and their unbridled expression. Unfortunately, that tends to undermine the value of whatever we have to say. We cannot plead for peace and justice unless we ourselves are prepared to be peaceful and just — and a vicious little  outburst rather gives the game away about what is actually going on inside.

I said yesterday we cannot change others, only ourselves. Maybe we could spend a few moments today thinking about how we react to situations and events that we believe wrong or which make us upset or angry. We can contribute to the world’s violence or we can lessen it. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. Better that than ‘spawn of Satan’ surely?

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6 thoughts on “Violence”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. At my advanced age, I find I am more and more distressed by the nasty way we speak to each other. I am ashamed of how I have lashed people with my tongue and how I still catch myself wanting to do so. Many years ago, someone said that the violence on the streets of Northern Ireland began with name-calling from children. it is incumbent on each of us to treat everyone else with respect and gentleness. If we don’t do this, we can’t expect a less violent world.

  2. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, just above the most primary-level need for physiological survival comes our need for safety. We react with fear, and then with violence, if we believe our safety is threatened. Humans all have certain deeply-held, but varying, cultural beliefs of all kinds around which we organize our lives and which tell us what is safe to believe and to do, and what is not. When these bedrock beliefs are threatened we seem willing to defend them to the death. We are now seeing this all over the world as cultures collide.

    It seems to me that “defense to the death” of what we believe to be “right” is the end stage of what begins in the existential fear that we are unsafe. Fear is a primal motivator. When we believe we can no longer trust society, the world, the church, or other leaders, we are set adrift from the trustworthy moorings on which we build our lives. When we feel our bedrock beliefs are betrayed, it is easy to lash out in defense of these worldviews, often in violent or hateful speech. Escalation to violent action may follow.

    Maslow’s next step is “Love/Belonging.” You see where I’m headed here. It is possible to overcome our perceived lack of safety, our fear, our primal need to be right, by dropping the false barriers of culture and ideology. It doesn’t mean we will all have the same beliefs. We just no longer need to control what others believe in order to calm our own fears.

  3. Hallelujah, I miss even words to say after reading the above devotion.
    God bless you so much. Children of God have listen the voice of their father through the above written.

  4. I have thought for a long time that civilization is very much skin deep and we are all responsible for negative vibes being sent out in the world. What to do? Be mindful, get not the habit of a prayer before a response and something I have found very useful:”gelasenheit” ( is that correct spelling?) thinking of the perfect response and then not saying it! I have managed it several times with my husband, anyway!

  5. Our choice of words is often made to cause maximum impact – usually negative. I do find myself being “clever” and adding barbs or tones to conversations in order to score points and assert myself. The violence need not be physical – dominating someone weaker (or apparently so) is bad whether it is verbal/emotional/physical. Easy to sit back and say I have not struck my colleagues/friends/fellow shoppers – but have I refrained from tuts, glares, rolled eyes (ironically heavenwards) or sharp words? I am sad to say no!
    Violence is something I (we) need to guard against in all forms. One often leads to another.

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