Yes. This.

Wall of prayers.

The modern age is in an age of revolution -- revolution motivated by insight into appalling vastness of human suffering and need. . . .

Against this background a few voices have continued to emphasize that the cause of the distressed human condition, individual and social -- and its only possible cure -- is a spiritual one. But what these voices are saying is not clear. They point out that social and political revolutions have shown no tendency to transform the heart of darkness that lies deep in the breast of every human being. That is evidently true. . . .

So obviously the problem is a spiritual one. And so must be the cure.

-- Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines

When I first noticed this journey toward nonviolence calling to me, I had no idea where it would lead. I only knew that the notion of love as the only transforming force in the universe rang true. I knew it by experience, and I was beginning to contemplate it on a theological and philosophical level.

It was an idea that would not let me go.

So I dedicated a year to studying it, which led to a summer set apart to study it some more. And that, eventually, led me here: the creation of this space.

When this space originally got started, it was inspired by Seth Godin's notion of the tribe -- one person compelled by an idea to step out in front and say, "Let's go, shall we?"

So this space began as a community for likeminded sojourners to journey together. And I absolutely loved it. I found myself learning more from the comments each tribe member shared than from the posts I wrote to spark the discussion in the first place.

But then life got pretty hectic and my attention was pulled in many directions. I couldn't sustain every endeavor. And so this space languished on the side.

It never languished in my heart.

These days, the greatest focus of my life is given to the deepening of a calling I noticed for the first time about four years ago and that has grown louder and louder still, forming into a firm conviction and an obedient yes. It is the obedience to a priestly call, a pastoral posture toward others in the life of the heart.

Primarily, that takes the form of writing on Still Forming, a space for contemplative spiritual reflection where I write five days a week. It also takes the form of online classes I'm offering or plan to offer this coming year. It takes the form of one-on-one spiritual direction I'm privileged to offer others.

And also, I continue to sense, it touches upon this space.

Although I continue not to know where this journey toward nonviolence will ultimately lead, one thing that's become abundantly clear to me the last couple years is that my part -- my contribution -- has to do with the heart. It has to do with questions like:

How do we become persons of nonviolence? How does love really grow in us? What brings about true forgiveness? How do we actually become people who love our enemies? 

I assumed at one point, I guess, that this journey would lead me into activism. And perhaps someday that will be true.

But for now, it seems pretty clear that my work in this area has more to do with formation -- specifically, the way our human hearts become formed and fashioned into a more firm foundation of love.

This is spiritual work. And I think, ultimately, it's where the truly nonviolent pathway begins.

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?

The JTN Vision: What Do We Believe Can Happen?

On that day in early January when I sat on a plane and dreamed aloud in my journal about the creation of this nonviolence tribe, I wrote:

What does it take to create a tribe around the journey toward nonviolence?

I think it begins with deciding to go. To do it.

The next step is declaring the vision.

What is this tribe about, and what do we believe can happen? What are we about, and what do we want to see happen in the world?

As you now well know, a careful brainstorm followed the asking of those questions. I set down a list of all the truths that a tribe devoted to the nonviolent path would consistently uphold.

And then I sat and thought about the vision.

What do we believe can happen?

What do we want to see happen?

I settled into the small crook of my airline seat and leaned my head against the window. I tapped my pen against my lip.



Daring to believe.

And then I tried to capture in words the images slowly forming inside my mind.

This is what I wrote:

I see pulsating hubs all over the geography of this planet.

Each hub represents a JTN tribemember who is impacting his or her community by consistently contributing an energy of love to each encounter of his or her life.

This injected love begins to infect other people so that lives and events within that hub become transformed into even greater forces for love.

Eventually, hubs grow in magnitude and strength.

Individuals within each hub assemble to effect even greater change concerning specific areas of need in their localized communities.

In this way, the world is taken in by the beauty of love and transformed into a loving family of peace.

It is somewhat grand, I know.

But aren't visions worth dreaming meant to be?


The central focus of this vision, for me, are the pulsating hubs.

These hubs represent you. They represent me.

Right now.


Day by day . . . one by one . . . we begin to infuse love into the pulsating hubs we represent on the geography of this planet. As we grow in love (which is the work we will accomplish here), we bring even greater love to each moment that we meet.

And slowly, we watch things change.

We change.

Others change.

Situations change.

All because of love.


And then one day, these hubs begin to grow.

We lock arms with other pulsating hubs of love around us -- others whose hearts have also been infused and transformed by love -- and we bring life, through these growing communities, to the forces of death surrounding us.

And change on a grander scale begins to happen.

All because of love.

Do you believe this can happen? Is there anything you'd like to add to this vision for our tribe?

We Are About: Building Community

As we round the bend on the final points of the JTN manifesto, I couldn't help but notice that the last four declarations on our list all share a common theme:

All of them touch upon how we'll build community here.

And so I decided to group all four of these points together in one final post, with a few words on each one.

So here they are . . . the final four pillars of our JTN manifesto:


1. Learning with each other and from each other.

No one person has a corner on this market. We are all beginners, and we are all teachers.

Thomas Merton liked to say, "We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners."

We have so much to learn from one another, and it is of great value in this community to give and receive from each other on this shared journey.

We will share stories and questions and discoveries and quandaries . . . and we will listen, and hold space, and seek to understand, and in humility receive each other's wisdom.


2. Celebrating acts of love and nonviolence within this community and around the world.

In a previous post, I mentioned that we will shortly begin a recurring feature on this blog called Repentance Thursdays. I'll share more about this when it officially launches (perhaps as early as next week), but it affords at its root a weekly opportunity to repent as a community of our individual violences of heart and deed.

But here's the beautiful thing . . .

As we choose to grow together along our rough edges, we will also make plenty of room to celebrate our ongoing growth in love.

That's where another new weekly feature will come into play.

Moment of Love Mondays will intentionally create space for us at the beginning of each week to reflect on the specific ways we chose to love in difficult moments the previous week.

(Interestingly enough, Kirsten and Katy-Did already offered two great glimpses into what this type of story-sharing can look like for us each Monday morning in the comments section of the previous post!)


3. Finding specific situations and places to actively choose and practice nonviolence.

Our fellow tribemember Sarah offered this suggestion for our JTN manifesto when it first debuted -- and I love it!

  • What if we, as a community, actively chose to demonstrate nonviolent action in response to specific situations that crop up in the greater world?
  • And what if -- eventually -- we coordinated group efforts along these lines?

I think it's possible.

In fact, this notion falls right in line with the original JTN vision I promised I would share with you at the conclusion of this series (and which is coming, as promised, in the next post later this week).

I would count it a great privilege to explore what this could look like with you.


And finally:

4. Forgiving ourselves and each other when we fail to live this journey well.

Let's face it. This journey is not easy.

It is, first of all, not one most people choose willingly.

And once chosen willingly, it is full of its fair share of fits and starts.

But just as this journey is about learning to extend compassionate grace toward those we might find difficult to love, it is also about extending that same compassionate grace toward ourselves and everyone else here.

We will bumble along.

We will discover our many egregious human frailties.

We will want to hide our eyes from these shortcomings.

And we will sometimes find it hard to love and forgive ourselves and each other these failings.

But here is grace.

And grace is here.


We Are About: Offering Creative, Life-Giving Love in Response to Violence or Hatred

In an earlier post in the JTN manifesto series, we explored one of the foundational earmarks of the nonviolent ethic: the power of love to overcome violence. This ideological affirmation has implications in reality, and that brings us to the next point we affirm:

Offering creative, life-giving love in response to any degree of violence or hatred.

Really, this point gets down to the nitty-gritty.

  • What are we doing in real life to express this love we say has the power to overcome violence?
  • Do our actions generate life, or do they perpetuate toxicity and death?

This is an affirmation that asks something of us. It asks, "What kind of person will you choose to be?"

On this point, we choose love in response to any degree of hatred or violence because it is the small, incidental choices that begin building in us a character worthy of greater acts of love.

We must begin where we are.

The journey toward nonviolence begins with a single step.

I remember one of the first times I tried putting this into practice.

I was driving in a car with someone who was, in all honesty, not a lot of fun to be around in that moment. No matter the topic discussed, their response was negative, sarcastic, or just generally unhelpful. Any attempt to spin a positive outlook by me on any broached subject was met with immediate dismissal.

I felt at a loss in that moment.

And my immediate inclination was to spew exasperation and frustration all over the conversation, once I reached what felt like my upper limit of patience. (Truthfully, that has been my reaction on more than one occasion before.)

But in that moment, I allowed myself to take a longer view.

Or rather, to take a longer look at the person sitting beside me.

Somehow, I was given the grace to see that their pessimism and fatalism were really symptoms of something larger: a great degree of disappointment in their circumstances. This colored their view of everything else they saw.

And somehow that produced a new wellspring of patience in me, as well as a willingness to demonstrate love. (This goes back to that curiosity bent that produces compassion we discussed in a previous post.)

Instead of returning their negativity with more than a bit of my own ("I'll show them how difficult they are to be around right now!"), I turned toward their heart and sought to address its tender places.

This doesn't mean I invaded their space or trespassed emotional boundaries.

It means that I listened what what they were saying.

And instead of telling them why they shouldn't feel that way, I mirrored back that I heard their concern. (This goes back to the compassionate listening we've also discussed previously.)

I was surprised to find the conversation turn a corner.

Something came disarmed in them.

I have my suppositions about what happened.

  • Perhaps they felt seen in a way they hadn't in a long time.
  • Perhaps they felt safe because I extended patience, acceptance, and care, rather than immediate judgment or rejection.
  • Perhaps they simply no longer felt a "me against them" tenor to the conversation, but rather an "us, together."

Whatever the reason, it gave me greater faith in love's power over all that carries the stench of death.

Granted, circumstances are not always this simplistic, nor are the outcomes always this positive.

But we must begin where we are, and adopting a nonviolent ethic of love means choosing to move toward another with generative and creative energy in moments that normally invite us to fight back, dismiss, reject, judge, ignore, or altogether avoid.

So, what about you?

How have you chosen love in the face of hatred, negativity, or violence in your life? What was that choice like for you? Did it make a difference at all?

We Are About: Responding to Violence with Curiosity

Our fellow tribemember Gigi, who early on suggested that we add to the JTN manifesto a commitment to look out at the world with and through eyes of love, also offered up the following:

Responding to violence with curiosity, rather than anger or judgment.

I believe curiosity is the starting point for compassion.

Curiosity gets us exploring outside the lines of our own experience. It opens up the possibility for someone else's story to hold more than we immediately see. It meets us in a place of being willing to learn.

Consider this:

  • How often do you experience curiosity in your daily life?
  • Is curiosity a source of delight for you, or does it scare you?

I can see how curiosity holds the potential to provoke fear. To be curious implies meeting up against something we don't yet know and therefore don't yet understand. It requires humility from us, an acknowledgment that realities exist beyond our personal experience of them.

It allows the world -- and the people in it -- to be larger than the container we've thus far held them in.

On the road to nonviolence, curiosity becomes an essential component of learning to love our enemies.

This is because curiosity is rooted in the acknowledgment that all human stories and all of reality are more complex and mysterious than we can imagine or pin down. From this acknowledgement, we come to regard our enemies as larger than their immediate actions.

We give them the dignity of their whole story.

What's more, we want to understand it.

This is a tough one, isn't it?

Here's what that can look like in practice.

A few weeks ago, a friend told me about some scenes in a couple movies I've been meaning to watch. In one (and I apologize for the explicit details about to be mentioned), a key character was beaten and killed by a group of people because of his sexual orientation. In another, a transgendered person was gang-raped and murdered.

When I heard these details, I was initially stunned. The violent acts were so gruesome and devastating, I felt my heart squeeze with pain that any person could sustain such aggression against their personhood.

But in the next moment, my heart squeezed with pain for a different reason.

I couldn't get these questions out of my mind:

  • What caused them to do it?
  • What beliefs and fears led them to such violent acts?
  • How had they come to believe and fear those things?
  • Did they really understand what they had done?

I wished so much that I could understand the individuals who had done those things. I wished they were real people of whom I could earn the right to ask.

I think it is this kind of curiosity that creates in us a love for those we would normally consider our enemies. Rather than anger or judgment, we ask questions. We wonder at their stories.

And our hearts break because of them.

What about you?

How easy or difficult is it for you to respond with curiosity to people you'd normally consider your enemies?

We Are About: An Unwavering Belief in the Power of Love to Overcome Violence

(We are in the middle of a series about the JTN manifesto. To learn more, click here.) I remember when I first encountered the idea that love is more powerful than violence.

It was October 2008.

I was reading a book for graduate school called A Holy Longing by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser and encountered these words:

One of the reasons why the world is not responding more to our challenge to justice is that our actions for justice themselves often mimic the very violence, injustice, hardness, and egoism they are trying to challenge. . . . The anger, crass egoism, bitterness, hardness, and aggression of so many peace groups and movements for justice can never serve as the basis for a new world order. It will convert few hearts, even when it is politically effective. . . . Love, not anger, is the basis for nonviolence and nonviolence is the only possible basis for a new world order of justice and peace.

That idea got me thinking for days and days.

How deeply had I believed justice was merely about making wrong things right, no matter how it was done? To be truthful, pretty deeply.

If one was on the path to truth, I assumed it was okay for indignation and self-righteousness to come into play. That seemed excusable to me in defense of truth. After all, "they" were wrong! The situation needed to be made right! It wasn't okay that "that" was happening!

But here was a new idea.

Somehow, it might matter what kind of energy I put out into the world in the quest for justice.

Somehow, the way I treat my neighbor might affect his or her heart and openness to truth, and their heart and openness to truth might also matter.

I realized this made sense.

People matter as much, if not more, as ideas in God's economy. After all, it was a love for the world that compelled Jesus Christ to enter into it when we were hopelessly unable to live up to the lasting perfection of God's ideas.

The more I thought about this, the more it continued to make sense.

Any change for good that had ever happened in my heart had been the result of an encounter with love.

Not guilt.

Not anger.

Not indignation.

Not violence.

Guilt may have motivated me toward right action, but it never converted my heart.

Anger may have made me cower in fear and comply, but it never made me trust and embrace.

Indignation merely served to make me rise up in defensive indignation, too, unwilling to change.

Violence made me lash out in violence, too, or quietly fade away into a mere shell of a human being.

The only thing that ever pierced the flesh of my heart and made me more fully human was an encounter with sincere, genuine love.

What about you?

We Are About: Examining the Violence in Our Hearts and Lives

(This post is part of a short series we're chronicling based on the individual points of the JTN manifesto. It is also material that may be familiar to some readers, as it contains a large section of material I published elsewhere on the importance of allowing ourselves to "sit in our sin.") ---

The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth.

-- Mahatma Gandhi

I’ll be honest.

I can’t say I’ve spent much time in my life owning up to the things I have done wrong.

Yes, there are things I wasn’t proud to have done (many things!). But somehow I always found a way to quickly explain away my having done them.

Usually I did this by believing myself to be the victim. If another person brought some wrong against me, then I believed anything I did — either to retaliate or to participate in the wrongdoing, too — exempted me from judgment.

I had a culpability problem.

What’s more, I believed God saw things my way in this, too. He could see the root causes motivating all I did. He could see my sins as mere attempts to survive in an environment. In my mind, God understood, took pity on me, and gladly let me off the hook.

I believed all these things — sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously — for almost the whole of my life. Then last summer I had an opportunity to begin facing my sin for what it really was (and is).

It all began with Gandhi.

As part of a two-day silent retreat I took for a school requirement, I cracked open Gandhi’s mammoth-size autobiography and began to read.

I was not even 10 pages into the book when I came to a section describing his early marriage. Nestled inside these few pages of description, he made a passing comment about an incident that had happened between him and his father that he said he would describe in greater detail later in the book. He used the word “shame” in connection with this incident, and he said he still felt the flooding of this shame each time he recalled the incident to mind.

Such strong language for a small, passing comment caught my attention.

Then, about 20 pages later, he related the specifics of this incident. It concerned a way he had behaved on the night of his father’s death. He was not proud at all of what he’d done. He called it his “double shame” and said it was “a blot [he had] never been able to efface or forget.”

Gandhi’s genuine, enduring remorse for his sins astounded me. Here was a man, arguably one of the most holy men ever to have walked this earth, who genuinely grieved the ways his humanity had ever brought harm to another or dishonored another person in some way.

I found myself touched in a very deep place by this story, too, because of the similarity this incident carried to an incident I faced in my own life on the night of my grandfather’s death. (I wrote about this incident here.)

Then slowly, as I sat with this memory surrounding the night of my grandfather’s death, another memory of something I’d done even earlier in my life began to surface.

I was eight or nine years old, and I’d done something really cruel to someone I loved. I’d inflicted a rare breed of physical pain on this person, and in the split-second that followed my having done it, I remember reeling in a bit of shock that I could possibly have done such a thing. But after that initial moment of shock, I resolutely shook the remorse away and reared up in self-righteous justification: this person had wronged me, so they deserved what I had done to them.

Slowly, more and more memories of my wrongdoings rose to the surface. I started scrawling them in a list in my journal. A long, specific list. A dreadfully incomplete list. A list that could have filled an entire journal if I’d gone on long enough to let it.

A bit later, somewhat spent, I turned to a clean page and wrote the following:

I have only just begun, but this feels like a purging process and also an exercise in truth. Gandhi would approve, I’m sure.

I will probably continue adding to this list — continue “sitting with my sin” — for the next period of time. It feels important to do so. Perhaps when I am finished I will sit with each instance and try to ascertain what motive lay at their roots. Perhaps there are common threads. Perhaps they all share the same thread. Perhaps I will learn much about human nature and original sin by examining my own catalog of sin.

I’ve come to believe the road to nonviolence must be marked by an honest reckoning with our own sin. This is what helps us see that we, too, have contributed to the sin, chaos, and devastation of this world. I remember being profoundly arrested by this truth after I spent time listing my own catalog of sins. I began to see how much I, too, have been part of the problem.

In the near future, after we finish exploring each point of the JTN manifesto in greater detail, we will begin a recurring feature here called Repentance Thursdays. This is going to be a place for us to repent of our own violences of heart, to the extent each of us is comfortable doing so. More details to come on this, but I wanted to give you a heads-up that it's in our future.

In the meantime, let's hear your thoughts on the subject:

How in touch have you been with your sin and violence of heart over the years?

We Are About: Compassionate Listening

Do you believe listening can change the world? Because I do. I know this is possible because I've experienced its change-making power inside my soul. I've also witnessed the effects of true listening on the lives of others.

Not only that, but I've seen how one soul changed by the power of listening produces a multiplication effect: we listen, because we've been listened to. The more we listen, the more we invite others to do the same, and slowly the whole of humanity gets lifted up.

That's why one entry in the JTN manifesto declares that we are about:

Compassionate listening that heals, empowers, and ultimately creates a more loving human family.

You may wonder, what exactly is compassionate listening?

Compassionate listening is the act of "listening and feeling with."

It is the act of entering as fully into another person's experience as humanly possible, simply with the intent to understand.

Not with the intent to demonstrate how much we understand.

Not with the intent to share our own related experience.

Not with the intent to give advice.

Not even with the intent to heal, empower, or better the world.

Simply to know them.

It means being fully present to another person. Putting aside our own ego. Laying down our own desire to speak and be listened to. Casting aside our assumptions about the other person and the experiences they're relating to us.

It means holding open the possibility that another person's thoughts and feelings and reactions could be -- and almost certainly are -- different than our own would be, simply because the whole of their life experience carries different associations and memories and meanings than ours does.

Compassionate listening accords another person the dignity of their own life, story, experiences, and humanity. It is a truly human act. And it has the power to change the world, one listened-to soul at a time.

Do you believe in this? How do you embody and/or experience this kind of listening in your own life?

We Are About: Forgiveness and Reconciliation

(This post is part of an ongoing series about the JTN manifesto. To learn more, click here.) Some of you know that my journey into nonviolence this past year landed me squarely in need of greater silence and solitude. I took several months this past summer to focus more intently on the works of peace and to journal and explore my own thoughts, feelings, reactions, and prayers on the subject.

What is less commonly known is how pointedly I knew that would also be an intentional journey into forgiveness.

My conscious journey toward grace, love, and freedom over the past ten years has primarily focused on inner healing. It has been a discovery of God's lavish love. And in that context, I also came in contact with God's heart for justice. I found him to be a God who comforts the afflicted and soothes what is bandaged and broken in us at the hands of others.

This was a beautiful, needed journey, and it will always be precious to me.

But over time, other thoughts began to tug at me. These were thoughts about forgiveness. Thoughts about the implications of God's radical grace and love.

Questions kept bubbling to the surface that would not go away:

"What does it mean to forgive, as God asks me to forgive?"


"How do I hold God's love for so-and-so alongside God's love for me?"


"If I forgive them, what will my story be anymore?"

These were troubling questions. I wanted to ignore them, and I did ... for several years. I kept clinging to God's tender love for my sore places. I knew that his love for me in those places was true.

But still.

There existed a tension between God's love for me and his ability to forgive those who had hurt me. I was so aware I didn't have that God-like ability in me yet.

As I approached this past summer, I knew it was time.

I knew going deeper into a lifestyle of nonviolence -- if, indeed, I was going to embrace that ethic -- meant addressing my own violence of heart, and that included (among other things) my own anger and unforgiveness.

I just didn't know what that meant or looked like.

I was grateful for the extended time of reflection the summer was going to afford me. I needed expansive space to hold those big, hard questions without noise or distraction.

I'll be writing about this long forgiveness journey I took in greater detail at another time.

For now, I wanted to share the truth I've learned through all of this that living at peace with our fellow man in a truly nonviolent way means facing our demons of unforgiveness.

It means embracing forgiveness as a way of life.

It even means opening ourselves to the restorative, blow-your-mind creativity of reconciliation.

I can't wait to share that story with you. But in the meantime, what about you:

How have you walked (or avoided) the path of forgiveness and reconciliation in your own life's journey?

We Are About: Looking Through Eyes of Love

Our fellow tribemember Gigi offered a great addition to the JTN manifesto:

Looking out at the world with and through eyes of love.

When I read this suggestion, it took me back to grade school.

I used to walk a half-mile to and from school every morning and afternoon. As I walked, I looked at the ground.

I have vivid memories of cracked chunks of sidewalk that could trip you up if you weren't careful ... or strange names and symbols scrawled into the concrete with a stick or a pencil when the concrete had first been wet ... or patches of weeds and grass pushing up through the sidewalk slits.

I carry these memories because I looked at the ground as I walked.

When I got to junior high, I walked the indoor hallways between class periods staring at the floor then, too. I still remember that tightly meshed orange and black pattern that was probably put down in the 1970s. I remember the tiny greenish square tiles of the bathroom floors.

And in high school, I got to know the wide, expansive walkways between each building on the campus.

Then there are the ways this shows up in my adult life:

  • It is always easier for me to look others in the eye while they are speaking than while I am speaking.
  • I avert my gaze instinctively when encountering another in the aisle at the grocery store.
  • I assume the hipster riding his bike down the street devalues my presence on the road.

It's strange, this proclivity in me.

I've been aware of it for many years, but it wasn't until last summer that I began trying on a different posture with conscious attention.

I believe the impetus was my irritation with the checkout person at the grocery store. She struck me as utterly rude, and for no particular reason at all. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she'd acted so short with me.

She'd probably just been having a really bad day.

I pushed my cart to the car in steam. I drove home with pursed lips. I thought of all the pointed remarks I wished I had said.

And then I found myself wondering:

What would it be like to love her?

This is the equivalent, to me, of looking out at the world with and through eyes of love.

Instead of assuming an inferior posture (read: looking at the ground while we walk) or a defensive shield (read: fuming at someone else's actions or inactions), it means adopting an approach of welcome. Embracing another's presence with a smile. Holding our heads up and looking other people in the eye with confidence and gladness.

I desire to live that way with ease and readiness.

I'm still working on it.

As I said above, it's something I've begun to do with more conscious attention. But it's not natural to me yet. I still drive down the road and assume I'm the least deserving one to be there.

I suppose that's the adult equivalent of still watching the ground while I walk.

What about you:

What is it like for you to look (or not look) out at the world with and through eyes of love?

We Are About: The Precious Dignity of Every Human Person

(We're about to embark on a series of posts that explores the individual points of the JTN manifesto. As each post gets written, I'll update the original post with links to each of these descriptive posts so that we'll always have an easy way to access the conversations that describe all that we say we believe and why. That original post will then be permanently added to the sidebar for our future reference. The links will also be nested on the About JTN page, where the manifesto also exists.) ---

When I sat on the plane that day and began to think about what a tribe committed to the journey of nonviolence would be about, I knew the first thing on the list would be:

The precious dignity of every human person.

I'll admit, I kept coming back to the wording of this statement. Was the word "precious" too frou-frou? Too feminine? But I couldn't allow myself to cross out that word.


That's really what it all comes down to. We believe in the inviolable nobility of every human soul.




Even if they've committed great crimes?


Even if they've enacted great atrocities?


Even if we see no hope of life in them at all, given all that they have done?

Yes, even then.

Because what it comes down to is this.

Someone who has committed a great crime, or enacted a great atrocity, or seems to have no hope of life within them ... has ultimately began where we stand now: in a place of judgment.

At some point, they came to believe that an individual standing before them was unworthy of life or freedom. They lost the belief that other people carried their own innate sense of dignity. They chose to look upon others as objects to be manipulated or destroyed at their own whim.

If we stand before them in that same judgment seat, how are we any different?

The judgment is the same. And it is a murderous judgment.

A person walking the nonviolent path believes life -- all of life -- holds innate within it something precious, something mysterious that we cannot bestow and do not possess the authority to snuff out.

(And it should be noted that the broadest views of nonviolence would extend this to life of every kind -- creation and animals included -- so that it affects the way we care for and inhabit the earth, the way we eat, and even how we treat pesky bugs and spiders crawling along the living room wall!)

Ultimately, this aspect of nonviolence presents questions to us about the value of life, its origin, and its end.

It also asks of us questions of hope:

  • Do we believe human beings can change?
  • Do we believe we are meant to, through the intention of God?
  • If so, how do we believe change in a human soul truly comes about?

These thoughts have only scratched the surface of this subject, and I'm sure you have more to add. So let's hear your thoughts:

What do you believe -- or perhaps struggle to believe -- about the precious dignity of every human life?

The JTN Tribe: What Are We About?

In early January, I traveled from Orlando to Michigan for a graduate school residency and ended up having an encounter with a little book that led me here. The flight from Orlando to Michigan was delayed by something like an hour. During that window of time, I finished reading one of the required texts for the residency and pulled out the next one: Tribes, by Seth Godin.

In it, Seth Godin talks about the need for leaders willing to step out in front and engage others with an idea. He talks about the power of following the trail of an idea that has gripped us with a passion. And he talks about how change can happen in the world when a tribe of people devoted to a singular idea have a place to gather and communicate about it.

I'd been pondering the idea of a dedicated online space to explore nonviolence and my own journey deeper into it for a little while before reading this book. But it wasn't until Seth Godin framed it in the language of a tribe that something really clicked for me about it.

I wrote in the margins of that book while I was reading:

How can I invite others into their own nonviolent journey, and to share what they're doing with the rest of the tribe?

Then I put down the book, picked up my pen, and let it fly across the pages of my journal with the following:

What does it take to create a tribe around the journey toward nonviolence?

I think this begins with deciding to go. To do it.

The next step is declaring the vision.

What is this tribe about, and what do we believe can happen? What are we about, and what do we want to see happen in the world?

I sat for a moment and thought about those questions. What would this tribe be about, if it existed? What do people traveling the journey toward nonviolence believe? More pointedly, what had I, in my own journey along this path, come to embrace as the bedrock foundation of my beliefs?

I tapped my pen against my lips for a few moments and stared at the page. Then I wrote, very deliberately, the following:


This is our manifesto, at least to the extent I was able to craft it on my own. I'd love your feedback and suggestions, too! Personally, if I were to add anything extra to what I wrote in my journal that day, I think it would contain something about the need for divine assistance to accomplish any of this.

It is my plan to explore each of these points in greater detail over the next several weeks. As I write each post, I'll come back here and link to the new post for each point. And when we're done with that exercise, I'll share the original vision I imagined for this community as I dreamed aloud in my journal on that fateful plane ride in January.

In the meantime, is there anything you'd add to the list above? Anything you'd add, change, or remove?

(For future reference, this bulleted declaration will always be nested at the top of the page under the About JTN link. There, I'll also update the points with links to the posts that explore each one in further depth.)

Oh, the Places We'll Go

I've spent some time this weekend planning out the future of this online space. I know changes will crop up along the way and that there's no way to mapquest our way to the future, but it's been fun to brainstorm things I'd like to see and write about here.

Some ideas I've been developing so far include:

  • Open letters to the great peacemakers
  • Stories that get us reflecting on our journeys to this journey
  • Reflections on what this path requires or asks of us
  • Posts that ask the hard questions about nonviolence and peacemaking
  • Recurring features to share moments of love and places of repentance in our own lives
  • Exploration of the theological underpinnings of nonviolence
  • Review of cultural artifacts (books, movies, music) that move us toward nonviolence
  • Ongoing definition of the subject

I thought it would be helpful to open this brainstorm up to the community. When you think about the subject of nonviolence, what haunts you? What excites you? What troubles you? What have you always wondered? What would help you along in your own journey?

Ultimately, my question to you is:

If you could put forth your own topics or questions to showcase in this space, what would they be?

What Is Nonviolence, Really?

I'm going to begin this post by saying my answer to this question is a work in progress. That said, I do want to share what I currently mean when I refer to nonviolence, especially as we move toward exploring this subject intentionally in this online space.

Currently, when I refer to nonviolence, I mean three things.

  1. Nonviolence means protecting the innocent. A whole lot of violence exists in the world, and most of it is brought against innocents. Whether the innocents are young girls sold into brothels, young boys made into soldiers, civilians hit by falling missiles, families swindled into slavery, or fifth graders stuffed into lockers, nonviolence says the innocent deserve their dignity. This is part of the ethic of nonviolence committed to social -- and interpersonal -- justice.
  2. Nonviolence means loving our enemies. Just as nonviolence looks at injustice and is willing to stand up and say "no," nonviolence is also, at one and the same time, unwilling to hate the unjust. We do not diminish the humanity of the offender. We take the incredibly audacious stance of choosing to love our enemies. We might even say the nonviolent way of life means refusing to name anyone an enemy.
  3. Nonviolence means examining and purifying our hearts. It's easy to keep nonviolence on the back burner or in the history books or news headlines when we don't personally encounter violence in daily life. And yet 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. The nonviolent journey is committed to purifying the muddy waters of the heart.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the considerations that continually come to mind when I reference this term and as I consider what it means for me to be a person committed to nonviolence.

What would you add to this list?

Why This Space?

I've been thinking about this new online space for just over a month now. But I've been thinking about the subject of nonviolence for over a year. I took a technology sabbatical this past summer to read and think and journal and write and pray about this subject. At the end of the summer, I acknowledged a few key truths from the experience:

  1. I could not return to life as it had always been. I had entered inside the subject of nonviolence, and it had entered me. I couldn't look at people, events, situations, or the world the same way again. I had come to embrace a nonviolent ethic of love as a way of life.
  2. I have so far to go. The ins and outs of the human heart are not only cavernous, they're infinite. I'm continually made aware of new (and old!) places in my heart where God's love has yet to take up full residence. This path continually humbles me. It will take a lifetime of learning to walk it faithfully.
  3. I have so much more to learn. I focused my studies this past year on a few key "mentors." I consider them my heroes, and I felt through their writings that I was ushered into a new and welcoming community. But even within their writings, I merely scratched the surface. There's still much more to learn and think about, and there are still many more writers to teach me the wisdom they have learned.

On the specific reason for beginning this new online space, I shared elsewhere recently:

[Nonviolence] is a subject that preoccupies my mind regularly. I encounter situations that make me wonder what the nonviolent response would be. Or I recognize places of unlove in my heart and wonder how God could implant a greater heart of charity in that place instead. Or I find myself wondering about others who are walking a similar path. What would it be like to connect with them over these ideas? How might we encourage one another and learn together?

I suppose that is my greatest hope for this online space.

I hope for this to be a place of continued exploration and sharing from my personal journey, but also the collective exploration of a community that is, together, inching its way toward a greater embodiment and demonstration of love in the world.

I'm looking forward to learning with you in this space that is dedicated toward that purpose.

How I Came to Care About Nonviolence

My road to nonviolence was inevitable, I suppose. Growing up, a few key moments startled me into an awareness of cruelty at work in the world. These moments of cruelty, each directed at me, caused me to bolt upright and pay attention. Each time, I grew wiser.

I learned to hide myself. And I began to live with as great a degree of perfection as I could muster. Perfection, I thought, would save me.

But when I was 19, I had a second conversion. I'd been following Jesus my whole life, but this was a moment of reckoning. I realized my performance-driven life had kept me from deep communion with Jesus.

I didn't understand my need for him. I thought I could handle things well on my own. And so I prayed for God to show me my need for the Christ who offered a grace I didn't believe I needed.

It turned out to be a journey into love.

God's love for me, I learned, was limitless. I didn't have to perform. Every idiosyncrasy and frailty, every unique feature and strength ... all of those were welcome here, safe in the all-encompassing arms of God.

Slowly, I unlearned my dependence on perfection. I learned to breathe, and to laugh, and to take heart that Christ's grace was lavish and large enough to cover my imperfections.

And then, I began to see more.

I saw others performing and straining to get by. I saw many with downcast eyes, trying to hide from harm's way. I ached for them to rest in their loveliness and worth. I longed for them to find their voices and step into the light. This became an intentional place of ministry.

And then my journey turned another corner.

In October 2008, I encountered a radical new idea. It was the idea that love can transform violence. In fact, I was told it was the only force powerful enough to do that work.

I had seen the healing effects of love in my own life. As I shared above, a real encounter with God's love had set me free. But this new idea was presented in the context of social change. Many believed love could transform violence on a systemic scale.

I wasn't quite sure about that.

But the idea completely gripped me. I could not escape its grasp. Perhaps because of my personal journey, I found myself puzzling over this idea for days and then months at a time.

I decided I needed to learn more.

For an entire year, I apprenticed myself to the journey. I read books. I journalled. I cried a whole lot. I wrote letters. I repented.

And at the end of it all, I realized I still had a long way to go.

The truth is, it will take a lifetime for God to form in me a wholly nonviolent heart. But I'm here. And I'm willing to be formed, even though it is not easy.

My life is completely changed, and I cannot go back now.