There is always a linkage between the inner journey of contemplation and our ability to work against violence in the world, in our culture, and in ourselves.
We each carry a certain amount of pain from our very birth. If that pain is not healed and transformed, it actually increases as we grow older, and we transmit it to people around us. We can become violent in our attitudes, gestures, words, and actions.
The kind of radical love Jesus knows in God creates an awareness that human life is not about appeasing a vengeful God, but about responding in love. This is a spirituality purified of violence at its very roots.
While violence may be effective in temporarily keeping us safe from harm, it can never create relationships. Violence can never heal the harm that has been done. Violence can never bring about reconciliation. Violence can never create Beloved Community. Only love can do that.
Jesus became the crucified so we would stop crucifying. He refused to transmit his pain on to others.
The first taste of what I would call mystical nonviolence is that we will not do violence to the infinity of ourselves, that we will not do violence to the God-given, Godly nature of life itself.
The Four A’s
Nonviolence trainers Veronica Pelicaric (1946–2022) and Nina Koevoets offer what they call “the four A’s” as guidelines to help us become more aware of our feelings and emotions, so we are better able to respond compassionately rather than react violently:
Acknowledge: When you notice a feeling, acknowledge its presence. First simply name it. If you are not alone, it can also be good to verbalize what you are feeling so the other person knows what is going on with you. “I am feeling irritated right now,” is an example of acknowledging a feeling.
Allow both your feeling(s) and thoughts. If violent images or words come to your mind, you can observe them. Take a deep breath and realize that this is not what you really want to act out. Breathe out and release.… If scary images or thoughts come to your mind, do the same. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if your thoughts are realistic…. Do a reality check. Breathe out and release. Tell yourself you can deal with it.
Ask yourself what is the reason for your feeling. Where does it come from? What need or value do you hold that was not met? For example, did you need care, appreciation, or understanding? What would you like to hear in this situation? Investigate with curiosity and care. Try to have a compassionate dialogue with yourself.
Accept that you are not perfect and forgive yourself. Offer reassurance with a sentence such as “I am patient,” or, “I’m able to handle this.” If it helps, you can also bring to mind a loving being, family member, friend, or pet. Alternatively, focus on your body to release any tension through your breath or by relaxing your muscles and letting your thoughts go.
Veronica Pelicaric and Nina Koevoets, Engaging Nonviolence: Activating Nonviolent Change in Our Lives and Our World (Corvallis, OR: Pace e Bene Press, 2019), 93–94.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Tuesday Chemistry (detail), digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 1 (detail), oil pastel on canvas. Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints, print. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
How can we move outside our constricting and restricting patterns of violence? We need each other. We need all the colors.