Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nonviolence and Peace

I used to be the sort of person who was just not cut out for activism. I am still that sort of person. I am, however, willing to stand up or speak out against social injustice, especially if it affects me or my loved ones personally. There is so much injustice in our world that I often feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. And then I remember that the source of peace is within each one of us.

I attended a two-day workshop on Kingian Nonviolence this past weekend. It was interesting and it was useful, but it is not something I am going to pursue further at this point. Not because I do not believe in it, but because I want to focus on the source of peace within me. I feel that Kingian Nonviolence is geared toward groups involved in nonviolent resistance, towards a form of activism. I feel that it focuses on the outer with little more than a passing nod to the inner. But the outer expressions of peace need that foundation of inner peace to be truly lasting and effective.

I think about nonviolence in my personal life and have for many years. Unfortunately, many years does not translate into effective practice. I have observed that all of my favorite television shows are very violent. Heroes, Fringe, Bones, Burn Notice... even House. Much of my own language is violent and my humor is often based on violence. I have seen this for years, yet I still practice violence.

For someone who is as calm and peaceful as I am, this all must sound pretty weird. I feel if I am treating someone in a way they do not want to be treated, that is a form of violence. Conversely, I feel that if I am not treating someone the way they want to be treated, it is also a form of violence. Sometimes these forms of violence may be necessary, such as in raising children. So much of parenting is treating our children in ways they do not want to be treated, but this is how we help them be better people.

If you are talking to me and I am not listening deeply, I consider this a form of violence. Disrespect is a form of violence. Humor that makes fun of somebody, even slightly, is a form of violence. Acting out of fear rather than love is a form of violence.

One of my favorite teachers is Thich Nhat Hanh and my favorite book of his is "Peace Is Every Step". I am currently re-reading his book "Creating True Peace" and I feel that reading and discussing and understanding this book should be part of any nonviolence training. The tagline for this book is "Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World."

Where do I go from here? I plan to walk every step in peace.


  1. You know what is interesting? As I was reading your examples of violence, I was thinking that violence is disrespect. Then I saw disrespect is violence in your post. Makes you think doesn't it?