Wisdom of History

Curtailing Force: Replacing Nails With Glue

When building a civilization that flees the Spirit of Violence and the Spirit of Cruelty, and embraces the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion, we need to use every tool available to us. We need to escape the fallacy that says we must choose between only two options: (1) hurting people more than they hurt us, escalating the violence and cruelty seven times or even seventy-seven times more (Genesis 4:23-24); or (2) doing nothing—turning the other cheek—while people hurt, abuse and rob people who we care about, including ourselves. (Matthew 5:38-42). By widening our perspective—by looking for ways that “brushes” and “glue” should replace “hammers” and “nails”—we escape narrow thinking that is limited to asking how hard we should swing the hammer no matter how much we may ruin the wood and smash our thumb.

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Unfortunately, pounding our lives, communities of wisdom, families, businesses, nations, and civilizations with hammers damages them.

Pounding nails splinters the wood.

And all too often, the hammer goes astray, hurting the thumb of whoever wields the hammer.

Therefore, as much as feasible, we need to replace hammers and nails with brushes and glue.

This principle applies in many contexts.

When designing and building military forces, we need to make weapons as non-destructive and as accurate as possible:

“Small,” “accurate” nukes that would “only” destroy Manhattan instead of “big”, “inaccurate” nukes that would vaporize New York City and destroy Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, and the Catskills.

Conventional explosives that are far less destructive than nukes and that do not generate radiation.

Conventional explosives that are as non-destructive and as accurate as possible so that the destruction and casualties are kept as low as feasible, especially among civilians.

Non-lethal weapons such as tasers and rubber bullets.

Regardless of the type of weapon, its effects on property and lives need to be proportionate to the threat against which we are defending ourselves and others.

Otherwise, we are retaliating by escalating the use of force in order to hurt other people more than they hurt us. We are acting in the Spirit of Violence. We are acting in the Spirit of Cruelty.

Similarly, inflicting injury, rape or death on civilians is using force in the Spirit of Violence—the Spirit of Cruelty.

Committing genocide is using force in the Spirit of Violence—the Spirit of Cruelty.

Destroying communities of wisdom is using force in the Spirit of Violence—the Spirit of Cruelty.

Destroying civilian infrastructure—such as bridges and power grids—is using force in the Spirit of Violence—the Spirit of Cruelty.

Hurting future generations by leaving behind land mines, toxic chemicals, or radiation is using force in the Spirit of Violence—the Spirit of Cruelty.

Such longterm impacts on non-combatants, including on unborn generations, is contrary to the ideals of the Law of Moses. For example, if Israel’s army besieged a city, they could cut down non-fruit bearing trees to build siege works, but they were forbidden to cut down fruit trees. (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).

However, even more important than “merely” reducing the destructive effects from weapons, is the need to replace the destructive force of weapons with the constructive force of non-destructive “glue”—both “carrots” and “sticks”.

Wielding figurative “carrots” and “sticks” is far preferable to wielding literal  bayonets, bullets and bombs.

Among nations, “carrots” include giving foreign aid, encouraging business investment, sharing cultural events such as the Olympics, and sharing ideas through traveling internationally and exchanging students.

Among nations, “sticks” include imposing economic sanctions on nations and ostracizing individuals for their bad choices.

Similarly, with children, figurative “carrots” and “sticks” are far preferable to screaming at them or hitting them.

“Carrots” include giving children cookies and playing a game with them. “Sticks” include taking the cookies away from the children and sending them to a “time out chair” because they’ve made a bad choice.

By widening our perspective—by looking for ways that “brushes” and “glue” can replace “hammers” and “nails”—we escape narrow thinking that is limited to asking how hard we should swing the hammer no matter how much we may ruin the wood and smash our thumb.

Limiting ourselves to considering only two ways to solve a problem is a fallacy.

I discuss this fallacy in my blogs “Intensive Care Units or Health Clubs”, “Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, and “Building Houses on Rock: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

In my blog “Building Houses on Rock: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, I wrote:

“A skilled negotiator told me that he loves to offer people a choice between only two things. There often is a third alternative that would be far better for the other person than the two choices he’s suggesting. But rarely do they see it. They limit themselves to considering only the two options he planted in their brains.”

In that blog, I discussed the fallacy that focuses only on the role of the government or on the role of the people when building a civilization that is good, that is very good.

I wrote:

“When building a civilization that is good, we must not limit ourselves to focusing on only two things about that civilization—even two things as important as the role of the government and the role of the people.”

“That is like asking if we want to eat apples and oranges.”

“Instead of eating only apples and oranges, we should eat every fruit in the large fruit basket of Wisdom.”

Similarly, when building a civilization that flees the Spirit of Violence and the Spirit of Cruelty, and embraces the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion, we need to use every tool available to us.

We need to escape the fallacy that says we must choose between only two options: (1) hurting people more than they hurt us, escalating the violence and cruelty seven times or even seventy-seven times more (Genesis 4:23-24); or (2) doing nothing—turning the other cheek—while people hurt, abuse and rob people who we care about, including ourselves. (Matthew 5:38-42).

It’s important to remember that sometimes Jesus made shocking statements in order to shock us into following the principle he wanted us to follow.

For example, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-26). Certainly a shocking statement if ever there was one!

These shocking words of Jesus were intended to shock us into following the principle that is stated in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37).

Using the same rhetorical tool in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made the shocking statements: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. . . . And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:27-30).

Yet no Wise-Person-of-Goodwill concludes that we should gouge out our eye or cutoff our hand!

Using the same rhetorical tool elsewhere in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made these shocking statements:

“[D]o not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 6:39-42).

I admire the Amish, and others, who believe that they should literally turn their other cheek in the face of violence, abuse and theft against people who they care about, including themselves.

However, I believe that Wise-People-of-Goodwill should use their wisdom to discern the best times and ways to wield force to prevent violence, theft, and abuse against people who they care about, including themselves, their communities of wisdom, their families, their businesses, their nations, and their civilizations.

I believe that the hardness of people’s hearts sometimes requires us to wield force wisely to defend against the Spirit of Violence and the Spirit of Cruelty at the same time as we are wisely embracing the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion.

Similarly, Moses, Jesus and Paul all taught that the Spirit of Marriage is that people should unite and become “one flesh”. (Genesis 2:25; Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:2,6-9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-17; Ephesians 5:31).

Nevertheless, Moses, Jesus and Paul all acknowledged that there are times when divorce is permissible due to the hardness of people’s hearts. (Matthew 1:18-19; 19:7-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11,15).

Divorces are difficult times in people’s lives. We need to forget such difficult times that lie behind us—while remembering the wisdom we learned—so that we are better able to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Similarly, we need to forget the Spirit of Revenge from past acts of violence and cruelty—while remembering the wisdom we learned—so that we are better able to press on toward lives, communities of wisdom, families, businesses, nations, and civilizations that fulfill the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion.

Defending against violence and cruelty can be compared to treating heart disease.

Always flee violence and cruelty, just as we would flee a doctor from 250 years ago who treated illnesses (such as the disease that killed George Washington) by “bleeding” the patient in a foolish, futile, counterproductive effort to restore a healthy balance of body fluids.

Nowadays, a doctor will embrace exercise and diet as the first line of defense against heart disease. The next line of defense is pills to control blood pressure and cholesterol, and a low dosage of aspirin daily to reduce clotting that causes heart attacks. The next line of defense is surgeries, starting with heart stents, bypass surgery, and repairs to heart valves, and escalating (if absolutely necessary) to replacing heart valves, and (as an absolutely last resort!) escalating to performing a heart transplant.

In similar fashion, the first line of defense against violence and cruelty begins with the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion—turning the other cheek and overcoming evil with good. (Matthew 5:38-44; Romans 12:17-21).

The next line of defense is figurative “carrots” and “sticks” to discourage violence and cruelty, and to encourage peace and compassion.

If absolutely necessary, the final line of defense against violence and cruelty is the use of force, using the minimum level of force necessary to defend against violence and cruelty.

But even when suffering from violence and cruelty, Wise-People-of-Goodwill should never resort to cruelty and violence to overcome cruelty and violence. That flawed thinking is as foolish, futile and counterproductive as “bleeding” a person who is already desperately ill.

Instead, Wise-People-of-Goodwill will follow the wise advice of Paul.

Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18).

“Do not take revenge . . ..” (Romans 12:19).

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17).

Do not follow the Spirit of Revenge, or the Spirit of Violence, or the Spirit of Cruelty!

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).

Do not be overcome by the Spirit of Revenge, but overcome the Spirit of Revenge with the Spirit of Turning-the-Other-Cheek.

Do not be overcome by the Spirit of Violence, but overcome the Spirit of Violence with the Spirit of Peace!

Do not be Overcome by the Spirit of Cruelty, but overcome the Spirit of Cruelty with the Spirit of Compassion!

In this Way of Jesus, you will prove that you are a Wise-Person-of-Goodwill.

Why?

Because wielding revenge, violence and cruelty as weapons to reduce revenge, violence and cruelty is as foolish, futile and counterproductive as the massive bloodletting by an ignorant doctor to treat a gravely ill patient (such as George Washington just before he died).

Because, as Isaac Asimov put it: “Violence Is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

READ MORE

For additional thoughts about ending violence, please read my blogs “Ending Violence: Putting Faces With Names” and “Ending Violence: Embracing the Spirit of Peace”.

As referenced in this blog, please read my blogs where I discuss the need to reject the fallacy of limiting ourselves to only two choices when we build lives, communities of wisdom, families, businesses, nations, and civilizations that are good, that are very good: “Intensive Care Units or Health Clubs”, “Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God”, “Pandemic Wisdom: Multiple Choice Exams & No-Win-Scenarios”, and “Building Houses on Rock: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

Isaac Asimov penned his famous proverb in his science fiction classic The Foundation Trilogy by having the major character Salvor Hardin say, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

The early Church Father, Origen, reportedly had himself castrated to remove temptations. Scholars are uncertain whether the reports were true, or merely malicious gossip. If the reports were accurate, Origen certainly was not acting as a wise man, and he subsequent ridiculed the idea that we should take these words of Jesus literally by gouging out our eye, cutting off our hand, or cutting off any other part of our body.