The instinct for nonviolence

Nonviolence doesn’t settle anything.

I used to be a pacifist. That’s what I called myself, anyway. I thought all war and conflict were bad. I avoided disagreements like the plague and prided myself on the refusal to fight. At the same time, I didn’t really have a cause I believed in. In my case my beliefs were based on cowardice. I allowed my instincts, my fear of conflict to override anything I valued. It weakened me terribly.

I wasn’t really a pacifist. After all, true pacifists have to be very brave and strong. Think of Gandhi and everything he faced! I didn’t truly believe in peace. Instead, I feared conflict, and I feared it because I hadn’t learned how to properly deal with it. I believed that walking away from a fight was the best option, because that allowed me to avoid facing my fear.

Running away from my fears led me to run away from everything else – any lesson that wasn’t easy, any challenge that was hard. My mental muscles atrophied in certain ways. Fear really had me in its grip – I hadn’t learned to face it, so in effect my fear was more important than all my goals, my dreams, my aspirations. That eroded my self confidence and even my self esteem as surely as water washes away sand. Because I was too afraid to stand up for myself, I proved to myself that I didn’t have value. It also led to a lot of feelings of frustration and powerlessness, which in turn led to angry outbursts. I also felt completely worthless.

Have you ever seen a small dog that snaps at everything? Sometimes they are called a “fear-biter.” Their own perception of powerlessness can lead them to attack everything indiscriminately. It was the same with me. When I grew angry enough, I didn’t have control over it. My fear would lead first to pacifism but then to thoughts of violence.

As I slowly learn to face my fears and deal with my worries, I find it easier to have goals and aspirations. As I stand up for myself by being assertive rather than aggressive, I show respect for myself as well as those around me.

If I can imagine defending myself or a loved one, I prove to myself that I have value and so does that loved one. If I value my own life enough to save it, my feelings of worthlessness are dispelled. We protect what we value, and we value what we protect. Letting fear take over and cause a pacifism without true conviction says “I value nothing.” That is why nonviolence settles nothing.

via Daily Prompt: Instinct

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