We sometimes conduct workshops where individuals, or sometimes even entire communities feel like they are not impacted by violence in a direct way. Some people who live in communities that do not witness high levels of crime, for example, feel like they do not deal with violence on a regular basis.
However, in Kingian Nonviolence, we define violence as “physical or emotional harm.”
Violence is Physical or Emotional Harm
According to the Center for Disease Control (which views violence as a public health issue), there are approximately twice as many suicides every year in the United States as there are Homicides. This speaks to the high impact of emotional harm and internal violence of the spirit. If we think of violence as only a physical act, we are missing the picture.
In fact, even acts of physical violence are almost always rooted in emotional harm. As the old saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” When we carry around emotional harm and our needs are not met, we carry that pain out on someone else.
The opposite of that is also true, that the emotional trauma caused by physical violence can last longer and be more painful then the actual physical harm. Veterans or victims of violence can suffer from PTSD long after all of the physical scars have healed.
Teaching children that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” may be one of the most harmful things we can do. A broken bone or a cut will heal, but the emotional harm caused by bullying, isolation, abandonment and internalized forms of oppression may last for years or even decades.
Emotional violence manifests in countless ways. Low self-esteem. Drug and alcohol abuse. Destructive relationships. Allowing anger and hatred to fester inside your heart. Without addressing these forms of violence, the homicides will never stop.
With this broader understanding of what violence is, it becomes clear that there is not one community anywhere in the world that is not directly impacted by it. Therefore, there is not one community in the world that does not need more practice in nonviolence.