Spiritual Nonviolence

Spiritual Nonviolence

Active nonviolence calls us…to recognize that what I resent, and perhaps even detest, in another, comes from my difficulty in admitting that this same reality lives also in me…[1]

Excerpt from “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence”

This week I resume the series I began in June 2022 titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus, which I paused for Advent. I begin this resumption with a consideration of A Spirituality of Nonviolence,[2] which is taken from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations for October 26, 2022. Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) began with “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,”[3] and modified it as a meditation to help us recognize our part in communal violence, as well as our responsibility in helping rectify it. These simple statements provide much to ponder. Here are the ten points, as visioned by the CAC:[4]

  1. I recognize the sacred in all people.
  2. I accept myself deeply.
  3. I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me.
  4. I renounce the ‘us-them’ mentality.
  5. I face my fear with love.
  6. I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act.
  7. I am part of the whole creation, not master over.
  8. I am ready to suffer to help liberate the Divine in others.
  9. I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted.
  10. I will slow down and plant seeds.

The opening statement, I recognize the sacred in all people, gets to the heart of our justification for doing violence to others – we do not recognize them as sacred. To see someone as sacred we must recognize that they, like us, are intentional, beloved creations of God with a divine purpose. They are not interruptions to or roadblocks in our life, but are integral and necessary parts of what is ours to experience. We are often deceived because no one always acts in what we consider sacred ways, especially during times of exhaustion, stress, or conflict. Concluding or assuming that someone is not sacred indicates a basic misunderstanding we all fall prey to: that we are what we do.. Just because we have an unholy moment or day or year does not make us less sacred; it makes us human. Not only are we not what we do, we also are not what we think or what others think about us. We are children of God, loved and created in God’s image. Just because the outer expression does not always accurately reflect the core reality does not diminish our sacred essence.

A significant underlying cause of violence is our lack of knowledge, understanding, or appreciation of the life-experience of others. It is difficult to value someone we do not know, just as it is difficult to wish anyone ill who we know well. I hear this is a source of internal conflict among some of the Russian soldiers tasked with the current invasion of Ukraine. They have an inherent kinship with the Ukrainian people that makes it feel as if they are doing violence against family members. It is much easier to feel justified in doing violence against another when we see them as something less than human and certainly not as sacred. We objectify them in the sense of devaluing their worth based on our (usually ill-informed) opinion of their surface identity with a race, nationality, sexual orientation, or other trait that has nothing to do with their inherent status as a sacred child of God. We have witnessed the objectification of large swaths of humanity playing out in horribly tragic ways throughout history, from the Nazis murdering Jews, Americans (and others) enslaving Africans, and the founders of this nation destroying the lives of indigenous peoples. In each case, unspeakable violence was justified by proclaiming the way of life of a group of sacred people to be less worthy of preservation than the way of life desired by the group in power.

How do we reduce violence in our world? It begins by seeking and honoring the sacred in everyone else. Focus on where our lives intersect with others, not on where they diverge. Be curious and interested. Be impressed and affirming. Be accepting and loving. Hold onto the certainty that the sacred essence is present in everyone until it reveals itself.

This is the 27th in a series of Life Notes titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus. The opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of other individuals or organizations. To engage with me or to explore contemplative spiritual direction, contact me at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com.

[1]Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999, p. 18.

[2] www.cac.org, A Spirituality of Nonviolence, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE7pqKJ_aRo

3 Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999, p. 18.



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