Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 2
Active nonviolence call us to accept (ourselves) deeply, “who I am” with all my gifts and richness, with all my limitations, errors, failings and weaknesses, and to realize that I am accepted by God.
- I recognize the sacred in all people.
- I accept myself deeply.
- I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me.
- I renounce the ‘us-them’ mentality.
- I face my fear with love.
- I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act.
- I am part of the whole creation, not master over.
- I am ready to suffer to help liberate the Divine in others.
- I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted.
- I will slow down and plant seeds.
The second statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence is I accept myself deeply. Most of us deny how often we act as though the opposite were true, that I reject myself deeply. It is this self-rejection, this self-disappointment, even this self-loathing that forms the foundation for our rejection of certain others and our justification for violence against them. When we compare ourselves with others, as we typically do, we usually feel we do not measure up well against them. Of course, we are comparing a small sampling of what we know about another with the totality of what we think we know about ourselves, so it is never a fair comparison. This self-rejection has a couple of different expressions. First, we might not feel ourselves worthy or capable of any meaningful task or action, so we withdraw and do nothing. On the other hand, we might compensate for our feelings of inferiority by being overly critical of the sincere (and imperfect) actions of others, sometimes even sabotaging those efforts. Both are acts of violence on our part, the first by doing nothing in a situation calling for action, and the second by negating the efforts of those trying to help a difficult situation. Instead of striving to be an active part of a solution we become an inflammatory part of the problem, all stemming from our refusal to accept ourselves in a deep way.
It is easy to base our acceptance or rejection of a person on their individual traits. One’s traits and their essence are not the same, however. Our traits do not define us anymore than our race, nationality, or sexual orientation define us. Acceptance and rejection of traits are attitudes or orientations that can change by reframing how we see, develop, and utilize the traits we possess and/or witness in others. The various traits we judge as positive or negative, useful or useless, exist on a continuum from immature or unconsummated expressions to more mature or consummated expressions. All of our actions fall somewhere between the two extremes, but wherever we fall today is not a life sentence condemning us to remain at that stage of development. As we learn to accept our less mature expressions as just that — less mature – we allow ourselves the grace to improve. It is our essential nature that guides us toward maturity. Being human is not an exercise in perfection; it is an exercise in growth and development.
The first step in developing a personal commitment to spiritual nonviolence is in recognizing the sacred in others. The second step is recognizing the sacred in ourselves. Indeed, the first is not possible without the second. Once we learn to accept that we will always be a work in progress, complete with various failings and falling short of expectations, we will be better able to accept the same imperfections in others. Less mature traits do not signify less worth as a person. As we mature, we cease considering others as a threat to our personal sense of worth, and we are less likely to react violently to them, either through neglect or through direct harm. The admonition to be kind because everyone is fighting a hard battle, applies here. Being kind to others, certainly, for their all-too-human frailties, but also being kind to ourselves for the same reason. Accepting ourselves deeply provides the necessary foundation for the nonviolent treatment of others.
This is the 28th 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 email@example.com.
 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.