When we learn of the violence and bloodshed that consume many parts of the world, we pretend to be astounded. When we are brought face to face with the brutality that rages in formerly peaceful areas of the world, we are astonished. When we hear of Christians of one country fighting against Christians of another country, we should be led to conclude that the whole earth borders on madness.

It is easy to assume that we are not part of that confusion, that we are not part of that tale of woe. One of our greatest sins is that of pretended innocence. Others are on the wrong track, but we are all right. That is their problem, not ours. What hypocrisy! It was Rap Brown who, in 1967, when Negroes in the U.S.A., in a fit of desperation, engaged in "a long hot summer", fighting for their civil rights, exclaimed, "Violence is as American as cherry pie!"

Yes, we are a very violent people. That is one of our basic qualities. And we need to change that course. We can do something about it. Some of us are physically violent. Others prefer to engage in verbal abuse. Both of them are disastrous.

Violence stems from uncontrolled anger. This is a sort of beast raving in us, seeking to devour a perceived opponent. Nothing will deter it from grabbing its prey, dealing him a deadly blow and silencing him.

Many there are who pride themselves on being cool and warmhearted until they are challenged. Then all the coolness vanishes and hell breaks loose in them. A torrent of verbal abuse is poured out as the fury of the devil descends upon its victim.

Some years ago I went to a gas station for the servicing of my vehicle. The boss was evidently displeased at some of the employees. His back was turned to me so that he was not aware of my presence. Indeed, he should have received a National Award. That man went on for quite a while hurling scorching, vituperative, contumelious epithets in quick succession. He let out all the venom that was in him. Nothing could deter that beast raging in him. Of course, as soon as he became aware of my presence, he came to a halt.

As Christians dedicated to the practice of basic principles of self-discipline, we need to control our tongue. St. James tells us, "Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world in itself; it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation" (James 3: 6).

We need to work hard at the development of a gentle society. A very important part of Christian formation is the proper use of the faculty of speech. We live in a society which delights in speaking ill of others. People endeavour to denigrate others, cast aspersions at others and place them in the worst possible light. People should be taught that this is wrong. It must not be allowed to happen.

Behind this corrupting practice is low self-esteem. Having a low self-perception leads people to attempt to build up their ego by destroying others. The result is verbal abuse and character assassination.

Pope Francis has some salutary advice for those who have that problem:

Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem.

That means, 'I feel so low that instead of picking myself up

I have to cut down others.> '

So perhaps we need to recognize a sense of insecurity as the main cause of verbal assassination. Often we attack a man because we are afraid of him. If we regarded him as a nobody we would not even take notice of him. But we know that people think highly of him, so we fear him and endeavour to cut him down. In doing this, we merely display our insecurity. So we have a tremendous task on our hands!