My life was once defined by violence. Now it is not.
My experience as an infantry sergeant in the Vietnam War has not made me an authority on deadly violence but I feel it has given me permission to speak.
When an act of extreme violence becomes front-page news everyone feels threatened. We don’t say it but we know it could have happened to us. In a deeper sense it has happened to all of us. We feel fear, then anger. From that darkness we begin looking for someone to blame in addition to the perpetrator. That sows the seed of separation, lines of defense and justification for vengeance. That is how we move us away from peace and become a link in a chain of violence.
That’s the way it happened to me. I didn’t want anyone to know I had such feelings of rage. I hardly admitted it to myself. I was not peaceful. I buried compassion along with fear and anger. I finally understood that all those emotions were valid and I embraced them all. I could not choose how I felt but I could choose to act out of anger or from compassion. The tricky thing about compassion is that to be genuine it must be universal. Genuine compassion includes the ones we love, ourselves and yes the ones who have violently attacked us.
It is not enough to feel compassion. We must be compassionate. It is not enough to feel love. We must perform loving acts. If we are to find peace we must act peacefully.
What brings peace, an end to strife, is now and forever, our loving reverence for life.