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July 13, 2016

Where Violent Conflict Begins

Violence and rage occur as a reaction to our fear, hurt, shame, loneliness or some combination of the four, and…When we are violent or rageful, it is not because of something the other person does,

but because of something we do not do.
(John & Linda Friel)

In this week’s Daily Pauses, we’ve examined some ideas about conflict. Obviously, the events here in America over the last few weeks have renewed, or re-invigorated, our conversations about violent conflict.

I love that we’re talking about it, because that gives our brains a chance to govern our brawn. Conversation will always be what distinguishes us from the beasts of the earth, and what gives us the best chance to reign in our purely animalistic tendencies. Thankfully, we humans do this amazingly well the vast majority of the time.

What I would argue, though, is that we still need more conversation. Most would agree. But I’m not talking about conversation among us or between us; I’m talking about conversation within each of us.

See, what Mr. and Mrs. Friel’s quote above represents is an accurate understanding of where violent conflict begins. When I feel afraid, hurt, ashamed, and/or lonely, that’s when I am most likely to get reactively violent. But if I am going to be a mature adult human, I need to recognize that whatever you might do to me, I am still responsible for what I do in response. And what I do in response is governed far more by the conversations I have with myself than any conversations I may have with you.

This was the genius of the timeless, practical wisdom offered to us by folks like Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and MLK. Each, in their own way, saw that the path of peace never begins with the actions of someone else. It has to begin with me, resolving to resolve my own pain instead of spilling it out onto you.

Does this mean we don’t need to have more and more conversations about systemic injustice? Of course not. God forbid. It just means I can never hold you more responsible for my actions than I do.

Conflict between us always begins as conflict within me.

Peace begins with pause,

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