Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 5

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 5

Active nonviolence calls (me) to face fear and to deal with it not mainly with courage but with love.[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 fifth statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence2 is I face my fear with love. When we refer to the fifth statement from The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence (see the epigraph), which inspired this shortened statement, we find an interesting contrast between facing our fears with courage and facing our fears with love. The distinction is not subtle. Courage seeks to overcome or defeat our fear. Acting courageously is often acting in spite of, or without regard to our fear-inducing reservations. Love seeks to understand and embrace our fear, to discover what lies behind it, particularly any unresolved issues in our past that may be unreasonably and subconsciously contributing to our fear. Courage leads to action and is an important quality in certain fearful situations. Love also leads to action, but to action based on a deeper exploration of the causes of the fear.

Our fears are usually based in ignorance. We fear what we do not understand. Sometimes, that fear is healthy and reasonable, as when we sense danger in a situation that actually does present a serious threat to us or others. Other times, however, arguably even most times, what we fear poses no tangible threat. Instead of reacting in fear, curiosity is the more appropriate response. When we succumb to our fear, our sympathetic nervous system prepares our bodies to fight or to flee. We become tense and reactive. We may act in ways we later see as irrational, unnecessarily violent, or otherwise inconsistent with the image we try to model ourselves after and portray to others.

In their younger years, our children slept with a nightlight. The dim light in the room helped them to see and recognize their familiar surroundings should they awaken during the night confused or frightened. As I age, once again I find value in nightlights, not because I think there might be a monster in the corner, but because my monsters now are unseen walls, closed doors, and furniture that I might run into or trip over in a semi-conscious state. In both cases, a little light is helpful because our normal way of perceiving and feeling safe in our surroundings requires light to visualize their familiarity. Adding metaphorical light to a fearful situation or relationship means providing understanding or knowledge that was previously lacking. One of the ills that Jesus healed was that of blindness. We typically assume he healed one’s physical sight, and perhaps he did. But he also healed spiritual blindness by providing the light of knowledge where there was darkness, wisdom where there was ignorance. I was blind, but now I see.

If facing our fears with blind, hard-charging courage is the bull-in-a-China-closet method of overcoming our life-challenges, then facing our fears with love is its contemplative and measured counterpart. Both methods are courageous and lead to action with regard to what we fear, but love’s method is far less violent. A bull in a China closet leaves much destruction in its wake. If we worry that love’s method of fear-resolving is too time and energy consuming, we should consider how long it will take and how costly it will be to repair the damage of blindly powering through our challenges.

Reducing the violence in our world begins with reducing the violence in our individual thoughts and actions. Reducing the violence in our thoughts and actions begins with learning to face our fears with a healthy sense of curiosity. In most cases, we should not seek the quick elimination of what we fear regardless of the cost. Rather, we should see our fears as gaps in our knowledge, as opportunities to learn and grow, as well as invitations to love and accept parts of God’s creation we would otherwise reject.

This is the 31st 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s