Violence begins with thoughts, progresses to being spoken, and then often becomes an action. How often we look back at the history of a mass murderer and find a trail of verbal assaults, internet rants, and then the acting out. This week violence showed itself in pipe bombs and in deadly gunfire at a synagogue, all preceded by escalating hatred expressed in speech and internet posts.
The evil of visiting harm on another is as old as the story of Cain and Abel. It is not a new phenomenon in our world. There have always been wars and weapons and murder. In our day, however, we have the internet, which not only can be a vehicle for doing harm but also contains clues and early warnings of hatred that have progressed to written expression and threats to carry it out. Today, if we are paying attention, we have a unique chance to catch potential harm early.
Paying attention to negativity and resentments that are being nurtured in ourselves and expressed in our speech is a good place to start. Sometimes a subtly rising tide of depression is an underlying contributor to living in a dark state of mind and the resulting violence against self and others. Not all violence toward others occurs with weapons. Disrespectful and snide remarks proceed from negative thoughts and prejudices our insecure egos are loathe to let go of. A rush to judgment can become a habit of “group think” that fuels feelings and expressions of hatred. Violence is something we have to talk over with each other to learn to recognize it in its various stages and expressions. We are then better able to call it out instead of becoming numb, desensitized, and a victim of it. Recognizing it in ourselves and coming to terms with it is a first step in in having the ability to root it out in our spheres of influence.