Published in FAITH column 8 October, 2017

As the scourge of physical violence scars people’s lives across the globe with a multi-billion dollar arms industry and weapons of mass destruction, it is timely the Federal Government has introduced a gun amnesty in Australia to ensure our safety.

Significant in our suburban enclaves, it is also imperative to acknowledge the pervasive peril of another similarly perfidious violence; the psychological. The verbal vernacular oft down plays this violence as bullying, a seemingly less disturbing definition, but its impact can be even more devastating than the physical. It is extant almost everywhere; in cyberspace, schoolyards, the workplace and on the football field as well as behind closed doors at home where words are manipulated with malice, albeit unconsciously at times.

The proverb “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, first appearing in The Christian Recorder in 1862, may be a noble aspiration, but the power of persecutory parlance can engender serious mental health issues, even suicide. Some people may have a ‘thick skin’ but too many ordinary human beings are not impervious to inimical insults and nasty malfeasance.

Be it fat shaming, revenge porn, homophobia or racial and religious bigotry among others, malevolent messaging across a beer, latte, a desk or the kitchen sink can be metaphorically ‘murderous’, so too in social media. Disparaging those supposed as weak with personal onslaughts should be as great a social concern as the fatal impact of a bullet. These people are often demeaned by those assuming a stronger, even sadistic superiority, putting others down to keep themselves up. It is no less than mental rape devaluing the vulnerable. And aren’t we all at times?

The increasing prevalence of suicide and depression may just be inadvertent consequences of this psychological violence perpetrated by those whose sense of potency is derived from dictating control over others.

May be too their physical violence against others is but a sequent of experiencing psychological violence in their own lives, twisting that violence and its innate pain against self and/or others they perceive responsible for its cause. Suicide bombers are symbols of this tragic syndrome believing in paradise now. Surely we need a permanent prohibition on psychological violence as much as the physical.

Faith in non-violence is intrinsic for a humane, compassionate society and should be paramount in all teachings across our social milieu to appreciate the allusion to Jesus’ utterance in John 8:7, viz “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

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