Defusing violence and aggression
A Christian Science perspective: On praying during antagonistic and aggressive situations.
I was attending a language course when my classmates suddenly began to turn on the instructor. They were frustrated by their lack of progress and proceeded to lash out with rather vicious condemnations of the curriculum and the teaching method. But it did not stop there; the verbal abuse escalated and was directed toward the instructor herself. It was difficult to imagine that something as benign as a language course could evoke such a visceral and ugly attack. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I had never seen anything like it before, or since. To me, it was obvious that the verbal attacks were based on fear and frustration and even, perhaps, prejudice. The instructor was not only dumbfounded but visibly shaken by the relentless outburst. Several times people tried to engage me in the altercation in support of their behavior, but I remained silent. My silence was not acquiescence to the verbal attacks, however; I was actually very engaged right then in prayer.
Why did I pray? I saw that to defuse the violence required something that words could not accomplish. To get to the root of the aggressive behavior, I had to address the thoughts that were leading to this targeted attack. For me, addressing those hateful thoughts meant praying.
Prayer, as Christ Jesus taught, effects change as it purifies our thoughts. This purification of thought is the power of Christ which dissolves hate and enforces the law of divine Love, God. Through my silent prayer to God, I looked at the situation from the perspective of the prayer Jesus gave the world, known as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Two points in particular struck me: Starting with “Our Father which art in heaven” meant beginning with the knowledge that all of us in that room had one Father, God. Having the same creator would mean that it was impossible to be at odds with each other; we would naturally be unified by the spirit of God, divine good. Secondly, the prayer includes, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This meant that evil, including doing harm to others, has no support from God.
I realized that it was important for me to understand that everyone in the group was, in reality, a child of God, who could only be motivated to be loving, not hateful. I mentally affirmed that God’s children have no affinity with hate. The law of Love, not the anarchy of hate, is what I based my trust and understanding on.
As I prayed, the verbal attacks on this person became more unreasonable and less able to stand up to intelligent scrutiny. Slowly the group dispersed, until only the instructor and I were left in the room. By what I can only describe as divine inspiration, I felt impelled to stay and comfort her. Over the next couple of days, I continued praying and checked in on her until she felt she could move on with courage and composure.
It was a remarkable experience, felt by both of us. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the injustice, we were strengthened by our discussions afterward about fairness, justice, and truth. I knew these attributes to be powerful because they came from God. I knew it was through divine help the verbal abuse had stopped. It never reappeared during the time this group stayed together.
Explaining the effect of understanding the divine law of Love, Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor’s founder and the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote: “When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: ‘Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 276).
As children of God, good, we naturally have within us the fellowship that enables us to do good as exemplified by Christ Jesus. We already see signs of this as politicians, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens are increasingly rejecting violence and calling for constructive conversation, unifying in the common goal of peace. This progress should be understood as the outcome of the divine impetus operating in human thought. In this way we are able to support what is good as we recognize the law of Mind that underlies our efforts – the law that effects change at the deepest level of human consciousness.