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Neighbors and nonviolence: a call to reflection

“Deliver us from the violence of superiority and disdain.
Grant us the desire, and the humility,
to listen with special care to those whose experiences
and attitudes are different from our own.”

From the Litany of Non-violence
of the Sisters of Providence (1992).
See full Litany of Nonviolence here.

 

reflection-snow-pathCan you remember a time you felt you were better than someone else — superior? Maybe you even said so. Do you see any connection between that and violence?

What does the word violence mean? Do you consider something violent only if there is injury or destruction?

What things might make you feel better than someone else? Perhaps you went to school longer. You earn more money. You have better behaved kids. You hold yourself to a higher moral order. These things might bring a sense of pride. Recall people and circumstances in your life that have made good things possible for you. Consider whether those you disdain, look down on, have been surrounded by such blessings?

Spend some time considering what might make you feel superior or hold others in disdain.

Have you ever looked down on persons of a different race or a different religion? On someone from another country? Someone who views the world differently than you do? Could anything be violent about that?

How do your thoughts influence your actions? Do you think violence starts in our thoughts? Can you recall a time when your thoughts about someone provided you an excuse to treat him or her badly? Has a negative thought you held ever allowed you to keep quiet when others are doing harm?

Spend some time in prayer. Ask yourself how becoming aware of your own thoughts and feelings that separate you from others might lead to a more non-violent heart. How might you learn to pause and think before you act on your feelings of superiority or disdain?
From the ending of the Litany of Non-violence:

“God of love, mercy and justice,
acknowledging our complicity in those attitudes,
actions and words which perpetuate violence,
we beg the grace of a non-violent heart. Amen.”

(Originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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William Hughes

William Hughes is retired from a career as a professor of music at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. He is a member of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Terre Haute. Bill has been a Providence Associate since 2012.

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