I will soon call an extraordinary man who has reached out to me to talk about our shared desire to see our culture’s addiction to violence decrease, if not vanish all together. Particularly the grip this addiction has on so many of our young people. I am deeply humbled by his request to connect with me.
I wanted to talk a little about this addiction to violence.
Before I do, let me relate a fairly well known piece of American Indian lore. A warrior goes to his chief and says, “Chief, I have two wolves battling inside me, the good wolf and the bad wolf. Which one is going to win.” The chief says, “Whichever one you feed the most.”
There are many forms of nutrition for the good wolf, chief among them, perhaps, is honesty. Honesty may be the greatest form of nutrition for the good wolf, dishonesty, the favorite dish of the bad wolf.
Having said this, let me say that I have both received and delivered violence in my life. I am no saint. Yes, it has been many years since I have delivered any, but I have put men in hospitals and my violence destroyed my first marriage. And my first wife was, without question, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.
But addiction to violence is like any other addiction. You cannot get well by yourself. You cannot do it alone. The sobbing man who swears he will never be violent again is no different that the ashen faced vomiting alcoholic or addict who swears they’ll never use again. The can all pass a polygraph in that moment of gut searing agony, but unless the get real treatment, the man will be violent again the alcoholic and addict will use again. It is as simple and horrible as that.
And far too many people never choose to declare war on their addiction and by doing so, discover the wondrous relief when you realize how truly wonderful it is that you don’t have get well all by yourself. And life free of addiction? Well, it doesn’t get any better, I can tell you that.
There are many reasons for our penchant for violence, and I do not pretend to know them all. But I do know that one of the reasons we are, as a culture, crazy-addicted to violence is this. We are raised to believe the following is true. Your ability to inflict violence is a true and accurate measure of your strength. Is that true? No. It’s bullshit.
We are taught that crying is weak, admitting we are afraid is weak, admitting we lack knowledge in one are or another is weak, walking away from a challenge to fight is weak. All not true. How do I know? Try these questions on for size.
– If it’s an act of weakness for you to cry, then why is it so hard for you?
– If it is an act of weakness to admit you lack knowledge, then why is it so hard for you to admit it?
– If it is an act of weakness for you to admit you are afraid, then why is it so hard for you to admit it?
– If it is an act of weakness to walk away from a fight, then how come it’s so hard for you to do it?
The discovery these questions lead us to is this truth: real acts of strength are not pleasant. Real acts if human strength are not easy and they are not pain free. But they are rewarding and freeing.
Consider this. Few human events take as much strength as the strength a woman displays when she gives birth. Yet, I dare you to walk up to a woman in the middle of labor with a mic in hand (make it a mic with a cord so you can pull it out from where she is going to put it) and ask her, Do you feel strong right now?
The people in our country, the youth in our country don’t need support in getting free of their addiction to violence. They deserve it.