Violence and Non-Violence – The Warrior-Philosopher’s 3rd Way

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A Warrior-Philosopher. The enlightened fighter. To many, this seems like a dichotomy. It is not. It is contradictory truth (neither/both). I live this contradictory truth everyday through my dual roles of Tactical Trainer and Spiritual Coach.

One of humanity’s oldest and most poignant challenges is the choice whether or not to use violence.  This challenge has plagued individuals, tribes, cultures, and nations since the beginning. There are proponents of violence in all circumstances as the ultimate problem solver, and there are those who advocate non-violence in all circumstances.  While many proponents of either approach advocate that one is always the right answer, I have experience with both tactics being correct and wise. I have also seen both fail.  The wisdom to know when each is required is central.

I believe in Third Way.  As someone from the Jesus tradition, I see my spiritual history abound with examples of finding the wise, non-violent way to respond to oppression, rebuke, insult, and the like.  Jesus’ statement about turn the other cheek, was not about pacifism; on the contrary, it was about usurping political power (more on that here).  Responding to bad feelings, injustice, and insults with violence only begets more violence, and rarely solves any real issues.  This is the Philosopher’s Face.

On the other hand, when faced with an evil (malice aforethought) and imminent attack of myself or my family, for example, defensive violence is the only response that protects myself, prevents the injury of other innocents, and offers the specific deterrent of stopping this threat before more pain is inflicted.  To be able to do so with speed, surety, surgical skill, and supreme confidence is a requirement.  This is the Warrior’s Face.

I also reject the concept of Redemptive Violence.  The idea that injuring you will somehow make my previous insult or injury feel better, or bring healing, or somehow balance the scales.  The key to understanding the difference between redemptive and defensive violence is immediacy.  Is the threat imminent?  Then defensive violence may be the wise response.  If the threat is not imminent, then I am responding to feelings, unforgiveness, fear, or any other untold psychological boogy-man, and it has become a myth of redemptive violence.  This almost always brings more pain and suffering – not less. 

Ultimately, what I have learned is that conflict situations are fluid and, as any tactician would understand, solutions must also be fluid and scaled. I have experienced situations with hotheaded bullies who are reasonable people that can be talked down. I have also been backed into a corner and had to fight my way out because of a decision by the other party. I know that in situations where a peaceful resolution is viable, it is morally and rationally unsound to pursue violence. However, I also know that some situations and people require more than conflict resolution skills – and one must rely on physical training or verbal domination to defend onself.

There are times when defensive violence is necessary. However, there is a difference between violence applied with anger, malice, and hate that extends beyond the cessation of the threat and defensive violence applied with precision, intentions of peaceful resolution, that stops when the threat stops. Violence applied with hatred and rage can only result in causing a legacy of violence. This kind of violence stems from the most negative aspects of humanity and is usually based upon deep rooted fear and pride.

I am not a proponent of violent solutions if there is a choice. It should be a tactic of last resort (of desire, not necessarily chronology). I do believe in non-violent resolution, as long as the other guy permits it. However, I cannot ignore the reality that some people have evil intentions and are intent on causing grave harm.  In these circumstances, defensive violence may be our only logical response.  That question teetering in heart and should is a defining characteristic of the Warrior-Philosopher.

I see humanity as making progress toward greater peace and enlightenment.  Of course, along the way there will be times of great harmony and times of great violence. To decry that there is a definitive solution to all concerns is usually furthering an agenda or wishful thinking. This applies to those purporting non-violence in all cases and to those who think there violence is the definitive answer. Life is beyond two way solutions – Warrior Philosophers believe in Third Ways.

Grace and Peace


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