Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 3

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 3

Active nonviolence calls (me) 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] 

Here are the ten tenants of A Spirituality of Nonviolence,[2] based on The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence.1

  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 third statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence2 is I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me. Of all the wisdom passed along by our predecessors, this is arguably the most difficult and profound lesson for humans to learn, understand, and integrate into their relationships. What we see in and experience from others that we do not like is actually a projection of something we do not like in and refuse to recognize or accept in ourselves. The truth is exactly as blunt and unyielding as that. It cannot be sugar-coated to make us feel better about ourselves or to justify our feelings that others are inferior to us. The habits, mannerisms, and other qualities we find intolerable in others are  reflections of what annoys us about ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge, accept, and love. Others, particularly those closest to us, serve as mirrors to our inner selves. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most annoying of all? (Spoiler alert: it’s me.)

This is not a new or revolutionary teaching. It is so uncomfortable for most of us, however, that we ignore, discount, or do not allow ourselves to process it. Psychiatrist and author Carl Jung (1875-1961) wrote: Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.[3] He observed that if the annoying acts of others were not part of us, we would not be bothered by them. Predating Jung by 1900 years was Jesus the Christ who commanded that we shall love our neighbor as ourself.  This well-known saying is usually loosely interpreted as a nice suggestion for how to treat others. Instead, it is a factual declaration that how we love, accept, and treat ourselves is exactly how we will love, accept, and treat others. It cannot be otherwise. What we dislike or repress in ourselves, we will dislike in others just as certainly as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

And the practical lesson from this is not that we should simply accept annoying traits in ourselves or others as the way things must be, but that we should understand annoying traits as points on a spectrum spanning from immature to mature expressions of a particular trait. As such, we can all reach higher levels of maturity once we accept the point on the spectrum where we find ourselves as a beginning and not a fixed point. We cannot eliminate impatience from others, for example, but we can look deeply into the causes and triggers of impatience in ourselves and teach ourselves more mature responses to those causes and triggers. In doing so, we will gradually experience less impatience from others, patience being the more mature form of impatience.

In this context, the nonviolence tenant we are looking at this week, I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me, we understand that the source of the resentment we can actually do something about is internal, i.e., with me, and not external, i.e., with another. In fact, we cannot effectively impact the source of the resentment except by identifying and healing it in ourselves. And that is good, if somewhat disheartening, news because it provides an element of control for us. When we justify violence against another to teach them a lesson or to eliminate their bad, annoying, or unacceptable behavior, we will never bring lasting peace or changed behavior because we will continue projecting our own unchanged internal resentments onto others. Peace, love and acceptance must begin internally. The bad news is that whatever qualities we project onto those around us will be projected back to us. Which is, of course, also the good news.

This is the 29th 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] CarlJungDepthPsychologySite.blog, posted December 14, 2019. Accessed January 16, 2023.

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