one big focus of my life now is violence and reactions to violence. because of where i work and the people i surround myself with, i am becoming more and more aware of the effects of violence on individuals, communities, our church, and our world. it's become clear the issue of violence and, especially, it's impact on youth, is something that reaches me in a deeper place than most other issues.
I've also been spending time, inside and out of therapy, thinking about acts of individual violence, especially verbal violence. I've come to see the violence in self-deprecation, gossip, and sarcasm, all of which form my usual mode of operation.
About a month ago, the Kairos Community floated the idea of a Vow of Nonviolence. Some of our Jesuit novice friends in MN had undertaken a yearly vow of nonviolence and it was suggested that some of us might discern doing likewise.
Never has something so seemingly small felt so right and also so daunting. I knew almost immediately that this was what I was looking for - a strong commitment to which I would hold myself accountable (and ask to be held accountable for in the larger community, as well). It also gave me an opportunity to commit to both small and large ways of resisting violence.
On the other hand, one could argue that sarcasm, and not English, is my native language, and a day does not go by without me making fun of myself in some capacity. I also am just now getting over (sort of) a reliance on gossip as a form of entertainment. I'm never HAPPY doing these things - they're just ingrained now. Uprooting these tendencies may have serious ramifications for me and for a lot of relationships that I value. Figuring out how to stay true to this vow and not end up being one of those goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou folks while holding this vow may prove challenging. I don't expect to get it right, at all. But the end of the vow (which our friend Sajeev said is the end of many priestly vows) really resonates with me: "God, I trust in your sustaining love and believe that just as you gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so you will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it."
I suppose I'm writing this for two reasons. One is that, scared as I am, I am mostly really excited to have taken this vow, especially in the context of a community of resistance and faith that holds me up and sustains me. The second is that I want to make this vow public so that I am accountable to more than myself. if you see or hear me engage in something that seems to violate this vow, i want to know. Ingrained habits of violence are so pernicious, they're sometimes difficult to see. i need the help of a loving community to help me root out all forms of violence in my life.
Below is the full text of the Vow of Nonviolence. Thanks for helping me be accountable to it.
Vow of Nonviolence
Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God….You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”
Before God the Creator and the Sanctifying Spirit, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus
- by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life
- by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it
- by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence
- by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart
- by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live
- by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.
(From Pax Christi USA and John Dear’s Disarming the Heart)