Every now and then I run across something in my social media feeds that make me stop and think… and then I start feeling like I have something to say – and you, my dear readers, suffer the outcome. In this case, there was a post that said (paraphrased) you can only be peaceful if you are capable of violence. Otherwise, if you are incapable of violence then you’re harmless. This is one of those items that made me stop and think, “Hmmm….”

Having spent well over three decades wearing one uniform or another and having served in positions where skilled and/or controlled violence were required to accomplish the mission at hand, I nevertheless consider myself a peaceful man. Yes, I CAN be violent. More than one person has observed that I’m pretty good at it (and the funny thing is that it was meant as a compliment). I prefer not to be violent… ever, if I can avoid it. Does my aversion to acts of violence make me harmless?  Not quite…

Let’s consider then, for a moment, a person who has no skill at violence; no background in any profession that would require such and no training even for self-defense purposes. Does it follow that such an unskilled person is harmless?  I think not. Given the right circumstances and even some very basic knowledge (or having watched enough movies in today’s world), a person can still commit acts of violence. The violence may not be skilled, targeted or even effective, but an attempt to commit an act of violence would remove the person from the “harmless” category.

To my way of thinking, for a person to be truly harmless, they have to be incapable of committing any act of violence, even in self-defense. It’s a rare person who will accept being the victim of targeted violence, evil or cruelty without ever fighting back. A harmless person would only either suffer or escape. S/he would not fight back in any way because in that defensive act they would be committing an act of violence against a person or animal. Committing such an act would cause harm.

Keeping all that in mind, I still understand and appreciate the differentiation between peaceful and harmless. As used, in this sense, peaceful is akin to light, where violence would be darkness.  You can’t be peaceful unless you are capable of violence and willingly choose not to be a violent person. Then you are peaceful. Interestingly, and I think most of my fellow contemporary warriors would agree with me, if you are capable of violence and have had to be violent and yet choose to set aside those skills to the maximum amount circumstances permit, choosing to embrace peace instead, not only your behavior is peaceful but your heart and mind are at peace as well. This isn’t because you’ve set aside violence but because you have chosen only to use your violent skills when necessary and justified. Knowing that you can defend yourself and others brings you a sense of peace that only comes with confidence and capability.

I would think that people who are truly harmless… those that are incapable of committing acts of harm even in self-defense, must imagine that they are at peace while they subconsciously live in an almost constant state of fear. Fear, stress, tension… none of these things fosters a peaceful outlook or life. They are like festering poisons that grow until they have to bubble out, spewing their poison in a usually uncontrolled fashion.

One could argue that high levels of discipline are required for both the violent yet peaceful man and the truly harmless man. Anyone who has ever exercised the necessary discipline to contain and not use their violent skills for personal reasons can attest to this. Not being harmless, but considering the lifestyle, I would think it would take an almost equal level of discipline to function efficiently day to day while constantly aware of yet in total denial of the potential for being targeted as a victim that exists during so many hours of every day.

Having considered all that, I have to say: I agree with the initial statement that only a violent man can be peaceful as those not capable of violence are (mostly) harmless. This is about mindset and values instead of physical capability. As has been said by a wise philosopher (although I can’t cite which one), “It’s far better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war.”

What are your thoughts?


One Reply to “Peaceful vs Harmless”

  • I am not one of your usual followers, but stumbled upon this post and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for unpacking that particular quote from your experienced perspective. And thank you for your service in the various uniforms you have worn. As a “gardener,” I sure appreciate the warriors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *