The Root of Violence
Monday, September 18, 2017
The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack. Contemplation of the Gospel message gradually trains you not to make so much of the differences, but to return to who you are (your True Self in God) which is always beyond any nationality, religion, skin color, gender, sexuality, or any other possible labels. In fact, you finally can see that they are always and only commercial labels—that cover the rich product underneath.
When you can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here you can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots before there is even a basis for fear or greed—the things that usually cause us to be angry, suspicious, and violent.
To be clear, it is inconceivable that a true believer would be racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, or bigoted toward any group or individual, especially toward the poor, which seems to be an acceptable American prejudice. In order to end the cycle of violence, our fight must flow from our authentic identity as Love.
One of the reasons I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation thirty years ago was to give activists some grounding in spirituality so they could continue working for social change, but from a stance much different than vengeance, ideology, or willpower pressing against willpower. Most activists I knew loved Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings on nonviolence. But it became clear to me that many of them had only an intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery. I often saw people on the Left playing the victim and creating victims of others who were not like them. The ego was still in charge. It was still a power game, not the science of love that Jesus taught us.
When we begin by connecting with our inner experience of communion rather than separation, our actions can become pure, clear, and firm. It takes a lifetime, I think. This kind of action, rooted in one’s True Self, comes from a deeper knowing of what is real, good, true, and beautiful, beyond labels and dualistic judgments of right or wrong. From this place, our energy is positive and has the most potential to create change for the good. This stance is precisely what we mean by “being in prayer.” We must pray “unceasingly” to maintain this posture.
Wait in prayer, but don’t wait for absolutely perfect motivation or we will never act. Radical union with God and neighbor is our starting place, not private perfection. Contemplation offers a way to make our action sustainable and lasting over the long haul, without being overly defended or cynical.
Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence Through the Journey of Centering Prayer, discs 1 and 2 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.