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Healing Our Violence
Healing Our Violence

The Beloved Community 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Nonviolence educator Kazu Haga writes that a commitment to nonviolence requires us to heal any division between ourselves and those we consider “other”: 

When we talk about building a world where all people can achieve justice and fulfill our potential as human beings, we really mean all people. That is Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s vision of “Beloved Community,” where all people can live in peace. Beloved Community is an acknowledgment that the only way for a peace to ever be sustainable, the only way that our people can always be safe, is if all people are free.… 

Building Beloved Community is not about loving the people who are easy to love. It is about cultivating love for those that are difficult to love. Those people over there. The others. Those who root for the Los Angeles Lakers [DM team: Haga is a passionate Boston Celtics fan]. The people who voted for that guy. The people who work in the very systems that are destroying our communities. The corrupt corporate CEO. The foreign dictator responsible for countless deaths.  

If you are not struggling to love people, if you are not trying to build understanding with those you disagree with, then you are not really doing the work of building Beloved Community. The work of building Beloved Community is understanding that we’re not trying to win over people, but to win people over. Historically, winning a war has meant defeating the opponent. There is a clear winner and a clear loser…. But in nonviolence, there is no real victory until everyone is on the same side.  

Dr. King once wrote, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” [1] 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. [2] 

Father Thomas Keating (1923–2018) saw love and peacemaking as inextricable from one another and from God.  

We’re all like localized vibrations of the infinite goodness of God’s presence. Love is our very nature. Love is our first, middle, and last name. Love is all; not [love as] sentimentality, but love that is self-forgetful and free of self-interest. 

This is also marvelously exemplified in Gandhi’s life and work. He never tried to win anything. He just tried to show love, and that’s what ahimsa really means. It’s not just a negative. Nonviolence doesn’t capture its meaning. It means to show love tirelessly, no matter what happens. That’s the meaning of turning the other cheek. Once in a while you have to defend somebody, but it means you’re always willing to suffer first for the cause—that is to say, for communion with your enemies. If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded. [3] 


[1] Martin Luther King Jr., “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” The Christian Century 74, no. 6 (February 6, 1957): 166. 

[2] Kazu Haga, Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2020), 106, 107–108.  

[3] Adapted from Thomas Keating, “Who Is God?,” Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002), Audible audio ed. 

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. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’ve experienced a life-long struggle with shame. For most of my adult life, I’ve felt as if I lived under a dark cloud. I struggle to forgive myself for the many times I have hurt others. Recently, though, I have begun to realize that healing of my own wounds is tantamount to becoming my True Self. These days, I not only pray for others but also for myself. The Daily Meditations have touched my soul and continue to guide me along my long and winding road. I am forever grateful.
—Adrienne Q. 

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