I didn’t beat my children. I don’t own a gun. I’ve never even been arrested.
But an article I read recently made me realize I have a violent heart.
The thought made me uncomfortable. As a spiritual director I have learned to be aware of the movements within my spirit and this concept of having a violent heart resonated deep within me. What was God teaching me?
Marie Beha wrote “Formation for Nonviolence” in the spring 2003 issue of Human Development. She asked the question in the formation of non-violence where do we start? Her answer is in the recognition that what goes on inside of us contributes to the culture of violence surrounding us.
Reminds me of the song lyrics: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Beha writes, “Violence isn’t always noisy….How I respond to others, even to myself, reveals who and how I am. My morning might begin in violence as I smash the button of my ringing alarm clock, resentful of its shrill summons from still needed sleep. Getting into the shower and realizing I have forgotten my towel, I berate myself for being so stupid. At breakfast I discover an almost empty cereal box still on the shelf and express my frustration over someone’s thoughtlessness. Even my hurried attempt at mouthing a Morning Offering can do violence to any real spirit of prayer…. Such low-level violence accompanies much of our living. It’s like the background hum of a heater or air conditioner; we don’t pay attention unless the disturbance reaches a certain threshold that sounds like trouble.”
I don’t think I have ever measured the degree of violence inside my heart before. Have you even thought of it from that perspective?
She writes, “Usually the focus is on me: my perceived right, needs, desires. My ego has been bruised and it is this that is protesting. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I eventually have to admit that I am reacting violently because I have fallen out of love…violence rises out of an ego that has shrunken to the size of self-preoccupation.”
OUCH! The truth hurts!
Beha’s answer is love. Loving oneself enough not to let the negative self-talk persist and not to follow the Satan’s lie that we are not beloved children of God. Loving our neighbors as ourselves by taking a deep breath before responding and creating a space for God’s grace to lead our response. Loving God enough to “discipline ourselves to sit in silence before the Lord until some measure of peace is restored to our own soul and we can begin to respond in love. We keep our focus on God’s mercy rather than our on ourselves and our own hurt and difficulty.”
I think it will take a lifetime to learn internal non-violence. No wonder external non-violence is so hard. But I do know the next time my internal voice speak to my heart in a derogatory manner or I fill up with a revengeful attitude towards someone – I will think about the words – internal non-violence. Awareness is the first step and focusing on reacting within the spirit of God’s love, instead of my ego, will be my guide.
“We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it.” Gandhi
“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” Martin Luther King Jr.
What do you think about internal non-violence?
Truthfully, I hadn’t ever really thought about the concept of “internal violence” before. But I have to tell you, this post struck a nerve. And it reminded me of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount — the part about the fact that the commandment “Thou Shall Not Murder” includes thinking angry thoughts in your head as well, even if you don’t carry them out.
Now I’m thinking of the times I snap at my children; think irritable, angry thoughts about my husband in my head; mutter at the callous co-worker or the driver who cuts me off; berate myself for another submission rejection…the list goes on and on.
You have given me a lot to think about today, Jean.
Love this post … sorry I’m just now commenting. I tweeted it a couple of times on Tuesday, but thought I’d left a comment, too!
I’m doing an anger workshop at my church right now and it goes along with what you are saying. That violent self-talk is really internalized anger — which is in many ways just as destructive to our souls and to others as external anger. Replacing those lies with Truth is KEY. I’m learning. As you know (from my email last week), I’m still in process! ;0)
Jean Wise says
Thanks for commenting Sheri and Susan. This article really got to me also. I don’t think I ever thought of it before being a form of violence against myself. Peace does start with us!
I haven’t thought of negative self-talk as violent before. It casts the issue in a whole new light, and makes it more urgent. Thanks for lifting up such an important insight.
Wow. That is so powerful, and yet I never thought of it like that. I apparently have a lot of internal violence directed at myself, even though I seek out peace in my life. Thank you for the eye opener.
Jean Wise says
powerful comments today. Doreen you really touched my heart with your sharing about your brother’s murder. My prayers are with you. Thanks for all the comments as we all think through this new perspective.
Doreen McGettigan says
That spoke right to me! I have been dealing with my inner violence for 11 years(today) yes today is the 11th anniversary of the murder of my brother..it is a constant internal struggle that I try to counterbalance with prayer..violent thought..prayer..violent thought..prayer on and on and on!
P.S. Tweeting this @SandwichINK 🙂 #TMT
Very interesting article. We are constantly bombarded by temptations thru the day. It’s easy to recognize some, but you’re right, these are less obvious.
Campus Crusade for Christ has a wonderful little booklet. I think it’s called the Spirit-Filled Life. In it, they discuss “Spiritual Breathing.” That’s where, the minute you realize you are doing – or thinking – something sinful, immediately breathe out by confessing it. Then breathe in God’s precious forgiveness. It immediately cleans and purifies you AND focuses you on God instead of negative thoughts.
It’s been a big blessing to me over the years. I’ll have to remember to apply it to moments like this as well. Thanks for the insightful words of encouragement. 🙂
KINDRED HEART WRITERS says
What can I say? I, too, have discovered my inner violence. But I work on becoming a “peaceful” woman each day. Thanks Jeanie. This one reached my heart. Love you Clella
Wow! Another powerful post! It’s amazing the things that it takes someone else writing about for us to see (and hopefully change) in ourselves! I’ve been realizing lately that I do this as well…and am working hard to change!
Tweeting it out! Thanks for linking up for Tweet Me Tuesday!