This blog series is simply my take on
what I’ve watched on tv, read in the paper,
witnessed, and lived.
I have been following the “Victory over Violence” movement, as many have, on TV, and I am proud of those seeking to make a difference. For those who are not aware of the struggle Arkansas is experiencing with violence, I encourage you to visit their website and see how you can make a difference.
Victory over Violence‘s Mission Statement is as follows:
Cover crime in a responsible manner focusing on impact, response, and solutions. Victory Over Violence aims to unite community groups and leaders and be a resource for reducing violent crime and changing lives through improvements in education, jobs, mentoring and hunger.
The violence here in Arkansas is something we all want to end, needs to end, yet it is my belief that since violence is an act, the first step is to identify the thoughts that lead these individuals TO act.
“WHAT?!” I can hear screams of those hurting as victims of violent acts and, I couldn’t agree more. We are all motivated by our needs; people in a normal environment, blessed with all they could want or need, develop naturally. The further each person gets away from having their individual needs met, seeking to fill them with whatever is available, the more abnormal their lines of thought that guide their actions become.
For those of us without an understanding of the developmental process, we act out our thoughts; from birth to an age of personal accountability, an individual absorbs what they take in from their environment. A child learns how to think, feel, and act from the example of those around him. By means of survival, if a child is required to decide how to fill basic needs without experience or wise counsel, then their actions reflect accurately their level of emotional ability and maturity. These things produce a lens through which each person sees, processes, and acts as they best believe meets their needs.
If an individual’s actions, at any given time, represent their best thinking at that moment, no matter how abnormal, distorted or immoral they may be, they have based their actions on what they believe is true. The first lesson I wish to share with you is the moment we all stop expecting people to act as we think they should, based on our understanding of what should be, the more clearly we can see what motivated them to do what they did. The longer we seek to weigh and judge others, based on our perceptions, which is based on our experiences, the less we will be able to combat the problems that affect our lives on a daily basis.
The first lesson I wish to share with you is the moment we all stop expecting people to act as we think they should, based on our understanding of what should be, the more clearly we can see what motivated them to do what they did. The longer we seek to weigh and judge others, based on our perceptions, which is based on our experiences, the less we will be able to combat the problems that affect our lives on a daily basis.
In an effort to break that down further, consider this – you wouldn’t put on someone else’s glasses or wear their contacts to see, would you? Why? Lenses are crafted to enable you to see clearly, and right the abnormal way in which your eyes take in the world. Some people see well close up, some better away, and many can’t see anything at all. This is a physical example of a mental and emotional problem, and the more a person has lacked, been hurt, deprived of basic needs, the less clearly they see, feel, or act.
In first Corinthians 13, we are given a lesson on love from Paul, what it means to love or not love, and how important it is to love as God intended us to.
“In the end, there is faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.”
Have you ever asked yourself why?
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not seek its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, it’s always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Paul goes on to point out that our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and what we see is only part of the whole picture.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But, I grew up, put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but we will see everything in perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever – Faith, Hope, and Love – and the greatest of these is Love.”
Why are we called to love? Jesus said that there were two commandments greater than all the others, not because they dismissed the rest, but because they included all the others. Jesus said that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls – first. Then, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Why? We are called to love God with all that we have, become new creations in Christ, and that means being filled with spiritual wisdom that enables us to think, feel, and act as God created each of us to for His purposes.
God is seeking, through His Son, to give us each what no one else can; unconditional love that fills all of our needs and, through grace, we are seen through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice. In Christ, we are seen and accepted for all that He makes us, not for all that we aren’t without Him. Only by loving God first, with all that we have, are we able to, in turn, love others as ourselves. We have to believe that we are worth loving, as we are with all our flaws, to be able to love others the same way. We need God to empower us, enabling clear vision, so that we may be able to see people in their humanity. God is asking us to see others as He sees us, sees through us, as broken people seeking that which only He can give; glasses to see and live by. We see in part because we only see our individual part – not others’.
As you can see, I want to encourage everyone to pause, let go of all bias and prejudice, and listen to what will enable solutions. Jesus said when relating parables that those with eyes and ears to hear would do so, and He was calling on them to seek spiritual wisdom to understand the actions of others.
We MUST seek spiritual wisdom.
We must first strive to understand what motivates us to think, feel, and act as we do so that we can clearly see others in the same way. If there is no love, there is no compassion and, without compassion, there is no understanding. Jesus said that when we see others, our sight needs to be clear to perceived and comprehend what we are seeing, and not be blinded by ignorance of what we ourselves struggle with.
Would you want a blind man operating on you? Would you prefer someone that you know or a stranger to share your problems with? Why? We want someone that is able and wise to identify and help us to right what is wrong. We want someone that cares and loves us to talk to, because if they don’t love us then they won’t be compassionate toward us. I use these examples to show that faith is important to how we treat, love, communicate and interact with others. My beliefs offer me another form of understanding, filling my spiritual needs, and they encourage what science seeks to do through therapy and counseling.
All the knowledge in the world does any good unless others know that you care and, if we are to fix what is wrong, we have to know what hurting individuals need, and re enough to offer it. Sadly, those that end up suffering the most in society are those that have what those that act out do not and, as a result, everyone ends up hurt, angry, and looking for a why without understanding the how or what.
Who am I to tell you anything? I am a man that has endured a life so full of pain and abuse that understanding the who, what, when, where, and how was all that kept me from taking my life. It was the need to understand that lead me to read and seek the answers I needed, because in prison it was up to me to do so. I could have dwelled on the hurt, loss, abuse, emptiness, and isolation until life itself lost all meaning or purpose. I believe that to have victory over violence, then we must all do what Jesus asked of us no matter where we come from or look like.
I am a man that has endured a life so full of pain and abuse that understanding the who, what, when, where, and how was all that kept me from taking my life. It was the need to understand that lead me to read and seek the answers I needed because in prison it was up to me to do so. I could have dwelled on the hurt, loss, abuse, emptiness, and isolation until life itself lost all meaning or purpose. I believe that to have victory over violence, then we must all do what Jesus asked of us no matter where we come from or look like.
I am a man that has endured a life so full of pain and abuse that understanding the who, what, when, where, and how was all that kept me from taking my life. It was the need to understand that lead me to read and seek the answers I needed because in prison it was up to me to do so. I could have dwelled on the hurt, loss, abuse, emptiness, and isolation until life itself lost all meaning or purpose. I believe that in order to have victory over violence, we must all do what Jesus asked of us no matter where we come from or look like.
We were created for unique purposes, divinely made to fulfill them, and as parts of His body we need one another. Our experiences, ideas, understanding, and love are needed so desperately.
What do we do? How can we do it?
All that I can offer you, here and now, is what I have lived and seen from 40 years of life. It took me 20 years of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse to shape my thoughts, fuel my emotions, and lead to acts that were both wrong and hurtful. I came from an abusive home, a violent father, and entrusted to another when my limitations were beyond his ability to cope with. My parents, desperate to see me develop into a boy of promise and potential, entrusted me into the care of a man who offered them a dream of just that.
In the Scouts, I would be shaped, taught, molded, and encouraged to become all that I was intended to be and find personal success. As a Scout, I would learn how to follow, that I might learn how to lead, commit to goals that I might achieve and, in my triumph and success, find confidence in the admiration of those beneath me.
What parent could resist the opportunity to see their creation guided in such a way? Children are the product of their parents, after all, and every parent wants the world to see in their children all the best of them and for them to overcome the worst. My parents knew that I needed extra help, my ADD required such, and not many men were willing to devote time to ensure the progress of those that struggled to find the norm.
My parents had no idea what they were handing me over to, but they were motivated by a love and desire that I would have what they knew not how to give me. My parents, like many parents, worked hard so that my sister and I might have all that they longed for as a child. They wanted for us what they believed would make us happy, because it represented what they themselves had dreamed of having. Yet, when you focus your life in goals to achieve that which YOU want, based on YOUR needs, can you realistically expect others to appreciate it as you do? No. It is why so many parents endure hardships, working two jobs if not more, because they believe if they have things it equals success and happiness.
A full life does not equal a happy one and, while I did not grow up poor materially, my heart longed desperately for that which no amount of money could buy. I wanted to be enough, as I was with all my flaws and disability, and when my dad was home from work he wouldn’t find cause to beat me. No matter how good I was, no matter if mom got the check book balanced, we would be enough to make him happy.
I wanted my dad to love me the way that I needed him to, not the way he wanted to or could. My dad wanted me to be tough, yet never fight back and believe that fighting was wrong. I was to be smart and make something of myself, even if he called me things that showed how little worth he felt I had; hypocrisy at its finest. As a boy my emotional needs were unmet, and it left a hole in me and my identity that no one else could fill. I ended up dependent on others outside my family and safety, to seek and meet those vital parts each child needs to develop.
Hurt a child often enough in profound ways, both physically and mentally, and they begin to withdraw, disassociate, and repress to survive. Most people said that I was a good boy, respectful of my elders, but at home the taste of blood and the ringing in my head were evidence that no matter what, I was a failure. If you take out your frustrations, mistakes, and hurt on your children, they will grow up doing the very same things reflected from your example.
Victory over violence must first begin with adults being accountable: for the relationship they have with God, the love they teach through their actions, and lastly offering their children basic needs that they might survive.