Recently I took a 40-hour course on nonviolence. One of my key takeaways was this: Nonviolence is not about a confrontation with outside enemy forces. Instead, nonviolence is, first and foremost, a brave confrontation with inside (in-a-me) forces.
Such selflessness, such authentic expression, and such a courageous act of love are exquisitely illustrated and eminently portrayed in the poignant parable of the Good Samaritan. There, the mixed-race Samaritan bravely puts himself at risk (on the curvy Jericho Road) to save a person who despised him as an “enemy.” Here is the potent and transformative power of love: The Samaritan returns condescension with compassion, hatred with hospitality, and stereotyping with sensitivity. The Samaritan sees beyond societally constructed constructs of race, categories, and labels to see a spiritually created child of God in the injured man. Looking within (in-a-me) he could truly see there is no “enemy” without. He beholds an individual cosmically created and divinely designed and therefore worthy of radical rescue, compassionate care, and unbounded understanding despite faults, failings, and flaws.St. Ignatius implored early Jesuits to contemplate a similar introspection: “He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.” The lifelong practice and pilgrimage of nonviolence require a daily introspective self-excavation before turning to confront the outside influences of evil. As the African proverb states: “If there is no enemy on the inside, the [perceived] enemy on the outside can do us no harm.”
Taken together, non-violence is a lifelong journey on the dusty, twisty road of Jericho. It is an ongoing inside-outside process—a spiritual sojourn with self—to daily discern and continuously confront the invisible and visible forces of evil with the infinite and eternal power of Christ’s limitless love.
- Throughout this Lenten season, how can you journey toward non-violence and God’s love by looking within yourself to bravely confront the enemy inside?
Dr. John G. Igwebuike is the director for school culture—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Saint Ignatius College Prep (Chicago). He is the founder of Guanacaste: The Lead Listening Institute and founder of the Transformational Listening Conference.