Disarm workplace violence

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

First, some good news. The number of homicides in the United States continues to drop - a widespread trend. But there is some bad news: the rise of workplace homicides, such as the recent calamity in Wakefield, Massachusetts, when a disgruntled employee gunned down seven co-workers.

If there's anything at all positive to draw from this latest heartache, perhaps it's the growing understanding of the problem. Experts feel they're getting a better handle on what drives someone to commit such horrible acts - what pushes them over the edge. They're also learning what warning signs to watch for. And steps that might prevent these tragedies.

Perpetrators often say they feel overwhelmed by mounting pressures and personal problems. To consider just one aspect of a complex problem, they lack a support system - family, friends, church groups. The alleged gunman in Wakefield was recently divorced and about to have his wages garnished by the IRS. A warning sign in such situations is anger, usually expressed in the workplace long before any fatal outburst.

What to do? Some age-old wisdom can help. The Bible observes, "A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife" (Prov. 15:18). A good reminder to appease strife, not stir it up. But what about those not interested in that reminder? Where is their help? Although that proverb doesn't tell how to transform the wrathful into the slow-to-anger, there's much elsewhere in the Bible that does. And there is much that teaches no one is truly isolated, alienated, cut off from support. And when you perceive something of our identity as the offspring of that heavenly Parent, God, you glimpse the spiritual basis for support, for ending alienation, for defusing anger before it explodes.

The book of Malachi describes the ultimate support group: "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10). What a wonderfully healing fact. The Fatherhood and Motherhood of God spells the brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity. Not one of us is cut off from belonging. Not one denied the divine love flowing to all God's offspring. Love that smoothes away some of the sharp-edged problems modern life holds.

It helps to remember this. Again and again. When we recall in prayer the permanent and stable relationship we each have with Father-Mother God, we benefit ourselves, but others are blessed as well. Even those we've never met. That's important, because the individual most in need may not be the one who feels most equipped or inclined to pray. But you can pray. And that prayer will improve the atmosphere we all inhabit. Our knowing something of God's ongoing care for all His creation - which is in His likeness, spiritual and perfect - lifts the surrounding mental environment and sheds from it aspects that are not from God. This spiritual knowledge neutralizes anger. It helps dissipate the pressure and quiet the inner turmoil a worker might feel. None of those negatives originates from God.

Consider Jesus' ministry. He subdued a man's maniacal behavior (see Luke 8:26-39), and defused a volatile scene before it burst into mob violence (see John 8:3-11). Doesn't this suggest that following his pattern of counteracting societal and personal troubles is effective?

Support and assurance come through some understanding that the God who is Love itself cares for us, includes us in Love's plan, provides for our present and future needs. And cancels violent inclinations that never originate from God - divine Love, pure Mind. Then the impulse toward maniacal and destructive action fades. Anger becomes baseless.

The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote, "With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 469-470). The more each of us knows God as Father-Mother, the more all of us feel the embrace of divine Love and Mind and Truth. And that makes it a bit less likely that anyone will feel cornered into committing horrible acts or pushed over the edge.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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