The world is pretty violent. Gang violence, foreign wars, police brutality, bullying at school, the death penalty, violent entertainment, road rage, domestic violence…you name it, we’ve got it.
What can we do? How can we fight violence and make peace?
Good questions. There should be an unease when it comes to the prevalence of violence. Indeed, more and more people are sensing that this isn’t the way it should be. They’re right. It shouldn’t.
Remember when mass shootings and terrorist attacks surprised us? Now the newsreel is a well-known script. There are the usual promises of healing, justice, and peace. The news fades. We forget. Then it happens again. Violence is familiar, it’s normal…and it shouldn’t be.
So what do we do? Issues and concerns surrounding violence and its prevalence in the media are complex. Answers are far from simple. But there’s at least one place we can start—with ourselves.
Do you grip the steering wheel like a vice when traffic backs up or someone cuts you off? Do you hurl the nearest object at the wall when you get bad news? Do you yell or scream at your kids? Do you watch violent movies and television and remain unperturbed at how you are entertained by blood and gore?
Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I know I struggle with a couple of these things. I know that I can be a violent person at times.
You see, if we go about trying to make peace in this violent world by blaming others and denying our own enjoyment, or employment, of violence, then we will get tripped up with thinking the trick is fixing those other people. To pursue peace in this world starts with admitting our own predilection toward violence and the fact that we are so often entertained, enthralled, and engaged with violence.
You’ve probably heard the adage, “you are what you eat.” You could also say that “you are what you think” or “you are what you love.” I believe what we consume in our daily lives—food, thoughts, words, media, etc.—comes to have a profound impact on who we are, what we think, what we say, and what we do. If we consume, create, and eventually become comfortable with violence in our daily lives, then eventually this will deform our desire for peace. We will instead devolve into a cycle where violence becomes normal, acceptable…even a pre-condition for living in this world. That shouldn’t be.
We should never make peace with our violent world. We should never feel comfortable with the way things are. We should instead seek to make peace in a violent world. And rather than casting that burden onto others or pointing the finger at those other people, we should start by pursuing peace in our own thoughts, words, and actions.
We can start today. What violence in my life could I cut out right now? Is it some type of media I consume? Is it some type of habit I have developed? Is it a certain reaction I have toward particular stimuli (a person, place, or thing)?
It may sound crazy, but starting with these questions — simple, everyday rituals and habits — may be the quickest way we can begin to make peace in our violent world. It won’t end there, but it’s one place we can certainly start.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on violence, war, and pacifism from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.