How Do You Define Violence?

Hello there, friends. I have to begin by saying I so appreciate you.

Your thoughtful and gracious responses never fail to amaze me.

Our last posts's discussion of capital punishment was no exception.

I think Terri said it best:

I’m so impressed with the responses of everyone who has commented so far.

You have a very kind and wise community here.

And to that I say:


You are seriously the best part about this blog.

Thank you for continuing to be here and for lending your heart and mind to all we do.


So, today I'd like to open things up for a brainstorm.

What say you to a gathering of collective wisdom?

Let's gather our thoughts around this central question:

What do we mean by "violence"?


For nearly six months, usually as I'm driving about town, I've found myself musing on this question over and over.

Usually it's because I notice subtle violences sprinkled throughout my days and evenings.

  • Ways I wronged those surrounding me.
  • Ways I capitulated to pressure.
  • Ways I went on the offensive.
  • Ways I catered to my competitive streak.
  • Ways I failed to love others -- and myself -- well at all.

It gets me thinking of all the various forms this "violence" can take.

It's so much more than physical violence.


Yes, there are physical manifestations of violence.

  • Abuse
  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Murder
  • Acts of terror
  • War

We, of course, decry and grieve over those forms of violence.


But there are other forms of violence.

Supremely subtle forms.

The kind that make this journey intensely personal for each of us.

The kind that gives this gathering space ongoing purpose as we each seek to grow in love.


Take, for example, what I wrote elsewhere on this blog:

Violence lodges itself in each of our hearts every day.

In split-second flashes, we judge, hate, criticize, demean, condescend, covet, envy, and dismiss other human beings.

For much of our days, we think of ourselves more than others.

We blur the lines and choose the path of least resistance.

We instinctively compete and are altogether dedicated to our self-preservation.

These, too, are issues of violence.


So I have to ask myself at any given moment:

Where is my heart?

Is it . . .

  • Regarding itself more important than another?
  • Straining to land on top?
  • Dismissing what others have to say?
  • Disregarding what others feel?
  • Criticizing what others believe and do?

To me, these are acts of violence.

I have to repent of them every day.


And then there's another form of violence.

The self-inflicted kind.

The kind I wrote about here that so often looks like self-judgment and self-condemnation.

The kind that inflicts self-harm, whether inwardly or outwardly.

Inwardly, this kind of violence can reside below the surface in a voice that incessantly berates us.

Outwardly, it can take many forms, such as:

  • Cutting
  • Overeating
  • Undereating
  • Promiscuity
  • Overspending
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of sleep

And many more . . .


I would submit to you, then, the following:

  1. Violence can be directed toward others or ourselves.
  2. It can be a physical act or a posture of the heart.
  3. It can lodge itself in our thoughts.
  4. At any moment we can choose or not choose love, violence lurks in the shadows.


Accordingly, I offer my personal working definition:

That which lacks love is violent.

Where love exists, violence is nowhere to be found.

That is why, for me, this nonviolent journey is ultimately about increasing one's capacity to love.


So, what do you think?

What does "violence" mean to you?

How would you define it?

Would you add any specific forms of violence to those listed above?