Posted on October 24, 2008


“Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, 1963.

Dr. King seems to be referring to physical violence in this quote. This is, of course, the most obvious form of violence and hence least elusive and simplest form to take a stand against.

Yet there is emotional violence that often goes unseen. Words that rip holes in the heart, looks that put a person under foot and under fire, attitudes that trash equality and set a person up as something better than another.

The deepest and least visible, hence the hardest to take a stand against, is violence against the soul of another. This comes in many forms that often are undetected by both the aggressor and the victim; dashing the hopes and dreams of another person against the rocks of life, slashing a person’s soul when they finaly risk being vulnerable and authentic, controlling another person by letting your opinions and ego lord it over them . . . anytime we dishonor the soul of another person and fail to treat them as a precious jewel, a priceless gift of grace.

The greatest violence and tragedy is that this subtle, yet destructive, form of violence is the most common and yet most undetected of all. The ego is the aggressor. This aggressor is a master of disguises and deceit, of acting and then shifting the blame; bate and switch!  This sort of violence is often habit, it becomes a part of the way people act everyday toward each other; unconsciously and systematically destroying relationships and community. This is probably for me the greatest sadness of the human condition. We must again learn to honor the soul of every other person every moment of every day.

“Presence is realizing that in every encounter with another human being, they (nor you) do not walk away the same; they leave a changed person for the better or for the worse; are you a giver or a taker?  Is your presence life-giving?” (Ron Irvine’s Blog: Presence–Living from the Source)

I have set before you life and death,

blessing and curse:

therefore choose life.”

(Deuteronomy 30:19)


“Yet when we ‘choose life,’ we quickly confront the reality of a culture riddled with violence. By violence I mean more than the physical savagery that gets much of the press. Far more common are those assaults on the human spirit so endemic to our lives that we may not even recognize them as acts of violence.

“Violence is done when parents insult children, when teachers demean students, when supervisors treat employees as disposable means to economic ends, when physicians treat patients as objects, when people condemn gays and lesbians ‘in the name of God,’ when racists live by the belief that people with a different skin color are less than human. And just as physical violence may lead to bodily death, spiritual violence causes death in other guises—the death of a sense of self, of trust in others, of risk taking on behalf of creativity, of commitment to the common good. If obituaries were written for deaths of this kind, every daily newspaper would be a tome.”

Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness—The Journey Toward An Undivided Life, pp. 168-9