The Path of Non-Violence - A Guest Post by Pam Bickell
The Path of Non-Violence
by Pam Bickell
Notes Along There Path Blog, 18 January 2016
The great spiritual teacher, Paramahansa Yogananda says–I’m rephrasing here–that we humans create our environments with our thoughts, literally. An aggravated mood might bring mosquitoes to us. Fear or anger overtaking a city can stir up tornadoes, or draw a hurricane. (Prayer and meditation have the opposite, calming, effect.) Large-scale acts of violence such as the events of 9/11 can lead to war. The acts themselves do not cause war—our reactions to the events, our thoughts and fervent emotions, lead to war. And, who among most of us doesn’t love payback? I find it difficult to resist the revenge-stories where a father goes after the perpetrators who killed his wife or child.
My children are familiar with the teachings of the Bible because they were raised in Catholic school. Jesus’ words, ‘If a man strikes you, turn the other cheek to him,’ were in a reading at mass one day, and that night my eldest (as a fourth-grader) asked, “Mom, do we really have to just take it if someone punches us?” At the time I said, “You have to protect yourself. You can’t stand there and let someone beat you.” I thought ‘turn the other cheek’ had no practical application in our world.
I didn’t understand then that Jesus’ words are about forgiveness, not cheek punches. I still believe we have to protect ourselves if someone attacks us, although I did once ask myself, “What would Jesus have done if punched?” I was reminded that He offered no resistance when arrested, beaten and forced to carry heavy wood on His back to His own death. “Ohhhh,” I thought. “I see.” To this day, I can’t comprehend the totality and impact of His sacrifice.
There have been others who gave their lives to the path of non-violence, such as Martin Luther King, whose great life we remember today, but it is certainly not natural to us. Think of the Protestants and the Catholics, Muslims and Christians, or the people of Israel and Palestine. You killed my daughter, my wife, my mother, my son. You will pay. Just when we believe a compromise/solution has been reached, a crazed retaliator starts everything up again, and the families of the latest victims commit to retribution until their dying breaths.
So, will our world ever be a peaceful world? Something would have to shift in our consciousness. We’d have to commit to non-violent solutions and to action. We’d have to expand our minds to realize every soul on Earth has the same hopes and dreams we do: to live in a loving family in a safe home, and to find fulfilling work within a cooperative, positive society. We’d have to plan to secure a future for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and show great care now for Mother Earth in the choices we make. If our consciousness expanded, we’d choose the path of non-violence. We’d be the one who says, “I’m listening. Please tell me your side of the story. Let’s work this out together. I forgive you.”