Violence doesn’t just happen. I’ve heard many people say, “Things just got out of control and we didn’t realize it until someone got hurt.” I don’t believe them. Violence always starts with disrespect.
Violence isn’t always physical. We can each do violence to ourselves without speaking a word or hitting the wall. Other times it’s angry yelling or putting down another person until it strikes them in the heart. In dysfunctional families, parents often yell to control their children, while the siblings fight to let their voices and hearts be heard. The carnage left behind is often irreparable unless other-centered love is allowed to come in and heal it.
I saw a conservative Facebook page once that had an unflattering picture of Hillary Clinton with a caption that read, “Say one word.” Person after person typed in the most hate-filled and vile words they could think of. Such an exercise only incites a mob mentality and promotes a form of violence in the hearts of those who participate. And the political party doesn’t matter–the same would happen if a liberal page posted a picture of Rush Limbaugh for people to do the same.
Whatever people post under such photos is more about the animosity in their own hearts, than the person they are posting about. The words we use are always more about us than the people we use them on. When we recognize we are bringing our own hearts and anger into the equation, it changes our perspective and we realize we are doing violence to ourselves when we speak of hatefully about others.
Violence starts with just one angry word and eventually, if given the right circumstances, the person who hates Hillary will run into the person who hates Rush and their premeditated anger and hate will spill onto each other and they could start a war.
The only way to avoid such violence is to avoid the first disrespectful and hateful thought that expresses such unhealthy anger. When we chose to respect all people whether we agree with them or not, we will choose to use only words of truth and compassion and then and only then will we finally become impeccable with our words.
If you feel you need to vent your anger by demeaning your child, please think twice about it. A child who is verbally or physically beaten never deserves it. Love finds a way to discipline and communicate without violence. If a parent chooses violence, they might teach their child to continue self-violence through addiction for their entire lifetime. Unless an intervention happens, they will grow up to continue the family tradition of violence with their own children.
Pain that is not transformed
becomes pain that is transmitted.
When we stop isolating and live in community, we learn to hold each other accountable for the words we say and the things we do and it gives violence less room to grow. Violence won’t survive if we can break down our walls and allow each other into our hearts.
Violence begins with anger expressed or not expressed. It starts with an angry word or angry silence. It includes the buildup of tension through scapegoating and ostracization and it is preserved through secrets and isolation. Without these behaviors violence would never have a chance.
When we learn to respect each person and allow different points of view, we honor others and God by allowing people to live out their personal beliefs. If we offer the gifts of tolerance and kindness when someone has a different opinion, they will recognize our love for them–even when we disagree. If family members would just stop trying to control each other, we could end this traditions of violence and be friends.
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone slaps you on one cheek,
turn to them the other also.
If someone takes your coat,
do not withhold your shirt from them.
Give to everyone who asks you,
and if anyone takes what belongs to you,
do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
NOTE: Jesus was not talking to victims of domestic violence here; He was teaching us how to interact with each other as a general principle. Jesus does not endorse violence and He would never want you to be beaten by someone who says they love you, so if you are in such a situation, please get help.