Never Numbing Out; Overcome and Carry On

This is the first of four follow-up articles on the many facets of fear including a four-part Interview/Special Report with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of Palm Beach Synagogue.

After I wrote about the paralysis of fear, its’ numbing effects, and resultant feelings of powerlessness, it was pointed out to me that there was another, more intentional, response to fear beyond freeze, fight, and flight.  That response is loving persistence or courageous non-violence. It is evidenced in the Sermon on the Mount, as Jesus called for his followers when confronted by fear and violence to turn the other cheek.  This was not an instruction of pacifism.  Turning the other cheek was about demanding equality from a person of authority. This is the most measured and effective action that can be taken when fear, anger, and aggression show up.

Courageous non-violent cheek turners were named by Columbia University’s School of Journalism as 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners on Monday, April 15th. One award went to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for exposing failings by officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Another went to Staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for immersive, compassionate coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief.  These journalists stood strong for their communities and for us all in the face of fear and anger.  They exposed the truth and rejected the lure of moving on to other stories.  They refused to numb out.  The parent of a Parkland victim wrote South Florida Sun-Sentinel after Pulitzers were announced encouraging the paper to continue its’ work saying there was still much to be done.  He can rest assured that they will carry on.

It takes a lot of guts to persist, to remain steadfast, and to overcome.  A courageous cheek turner must have the resolve of Gandhi, who when confronted by his jailers with threats intended to invoke fear replied; “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.” But this is exactly the kind of response which will defeat fear in its’ tracks.  We shall overcome. It is the essence of love.  And love refuses to capitulate.  It will not retaliate-in-kind.  It will not run away.  it will not numb out. Love is an action-choice made by the brave soul who finally rejects all notions of self in deference to the greater good.

The Beloved Community

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King worked for the establishment of a Beloved Community. The Beloved Community in which love of enemies, non-violent resolution of conflicts, human dignity, peace, and freedom will overcome hatred, division, and selfishness.
What a magnificent dream. His message of love stirred up controversy and he was called a rabble-rouser. His message of love made lots of enemies but he was undeterred.
God wants a humanity that is characterized by this sort of fearless love which neutralizes the power of evil and transforms it into good.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King was taken from us at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It was such a tragic day. Violence, fear, and hatred seemed to rob us of his beloved community dream. But of course, in reality, violence never wins.
One of the most amazing peacemakers I have known rose from the ashes of that dark day in Tennessee. Clare Hanrahan, began her battle for justice and mercy when she was 18 in her home town of Memphis after the assassination of Dr. King in 1968. From then on her work has been tireless.
Though many of our generation put aside work for non-violence and the beloved community after the War in Vietnam, Clare did not stop. She has been a protester at the gates of bomb factories, has been jailed in federal prison for protesting at the School of The Americas and has stood in silent, non-violent vigils for immigrants, women and the marginalized.
At age 62 she started an organization called New South Network of War Resisters. Clare recently said in an interview at her Asheville, NC home, “I think we’ve all got to live in the light of what we feel is right action and just do that.”
One of her books, The Half-Life of a Free Radical: Growing Up Irish Catholic in Jim Crow Memphis, tells the story of her work and struggles. She has been a light for us all to follow exemplifying Dr. King’s dream and stressing alternatives to violence.
Like Clare Hanrahan, we always have the option to be kind and gentle. We always have the option to let go of personal bias in favor of cooperation. We always have the option to love instead of hate. We have the chance, here and now, to exercise these options and become co-creators of Dr. King’s beloved community.
About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.
Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast
Drawing courtesy of Vivien Feyer, gifts of the Society for the Support of Chemical Weapons Victims.
Martin Luther King Memorial Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash