Watching the news nowadays has really morphed into quite the traumatic experience. Wherever we turn, we are inundated with images of the darker side of humanity that nobody likes to make eye-contact with: Modern day lynchings, the manipulation of an otherwise beautiful faith to justify the unjustifiable, and a global audience who refuses to act unless it is profitable for them to do so.
These atrocities, so dreadful in nature and absurd in number, have unfortunately lost their shock value and have become commonplace.
I dream, of course, of the absence of such depravity, perhaps in vain.
But one can’t help but wonder: How on Earth did we let it get to this point? Why has such violence remained so central to our global infrastructure?
The human race is supposed to be this sparkling result of millions of years of evolution, yet we as a civilization still adhere to fiercely to that old adage of fighting fire with fire.
Now, I’m no scientist, but I’m fairly certain that fighting fire with fire does nothing to reduce the size of the fire. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it only produces a bigger fire. Which, of course, only necessitates more fire to put it out.
Violence and aggression often work this way, on any level, whether it be a family rivalry or a world war. Our gut instinct is to react to bitterness and aggression with bitterness and aggression which, no surprise, only results in more bitterness and aggression.
What we often fail to realize is that, most of the time, bitterness and aggression spawn from one of two places: fear or pain. We are still very much like our ancestors in this aspect: an animal, when cornered, is prone to lashing out. Most of the time it means no ill will, and the creature is only concerned with self-preservation.
So, then, shouldn’t we reconsider our response to such hostility? I’m not the first person to ask this question.
In fact, a large part of Martin Luther King’s legacy is centered around his preachings on the futility of violence and the poignancy of meeting aggression with love. He often thought of his approach as a type of armor, saying that “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
Now, that’s a lovely sentiment and all, and I’m sure it would go wonderfully in a Hallmark card, or in a fortune cookie. But, make no mistake, Martin Luther King’s words are not only thought-provoking and touching, but they are incredibly effective in practice as well.
With this philosophy, Martin Luther King flourished, and led the African-American Community to victory during the Civil Rights Movement. It was this philosophy that allowed Mahatma Gandhi to lead the Indians towards independence from Imperial England. This philosophy enabled Mother Teresa to reach millions of people through her mission in Calcutta. It really is amazing what a little compassion and understanding can do.
Yet, we still insist on resorting to violence to solve our problems. And look where that’s gotten us.
In times like this, I often ponder the words of the great Eleanor Roosevelt. She asked: “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”
I can only hope that this will be the generation that can scrounge together enough courage to say: enough is enough.
Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. It is up to us to break the chain today.
So, my challenge to you, and myself, is this: To meet anger with sympathy, cruelty with kindness, and contempt with compassion. Greet grimaces with a smile. Forgive and forget about finding fault and seeking revenge. And in whatever adversity you man face, may your wisdom be you armor, and your compassion be your sword. For it is love, not hate, that is the weapon of the future.