Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Non-Violent Communication: A language of life, p. 147.
Rosenberg also believes that human anger (as distinguished from Divine, he implies), is always punitive, looking to punish another, because of what we are telling ourselves in our minds or hearts. If we empathize instead, he believes, we don’t have time to generate the anger because we are outside of ourselves being present to others’ feelings and needs, or at least being able to express our feelings and unmet needs well, without judgment. (Perhaps this is why St. Paul says, “In your anger, do not sin.” We sin when we let our internal story about what is going on with another person issue in violent behaviour.)
Most often, I feel discouraged when I read about stuff like this because I have trouble believing that I will ever consistently be capable of this skill. Sometimes, I wish it was appropriate to wish for some righteous payback: yelling at a conservative author about how wrong he is about homosexuality, or maybe smacking someone who won’t get out of my face. Sometimes even throwing something that will make a big noise when it crashes would, I think, feel oh-so-fucking satisfying.
But Rosenberg says something else, too: “Killing people is superficial.” Deep anger is important, but lashing out doesn’t connect me to the root of what I feel I need in a given situation. I believe he’s right. Strangely, that insight does provide some relief.
Pray for me, Dear Readers, as I learn to connect with my own feelings and needs, especially when I am angry.