Causes of Violence

THE roots of violence tend to be complex. And often, they cannot be attributed to a single factor, such as associates, entertainment, or social environment. Many elements may be involved, including the following.

Desperation and despair. Sometimes people resort to violence when they are oppressed, discriminated against, socially isolated, or economically deprived or when they feel that they have no control over their life.

The mob spirit. As is often seen at sporting events, people in groups or mobs seem to have fewer inhibitions against bad behavior. Why? They are “less aware of their own moral standards and are much more likely to respond to violent or aggressive cues,” says the book Social Psychology. Such individuals, states another work, may become mindless puppets, losing “all the feelings of social responsibility.”

Hatred and jealousy. The first documented murder in human history was committed by a man named Cain. (Genesis 4:1-8) Inflamed with jealous hatred, Cain murdered his brother​—even though God warned Cain to control his emotions and promised to bless him if he did. How true are the Bible’s words: “Where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are”!​—James 3:16.

 Alcohol and drug abuse. Substance abuse not only impairs physical and mental health but also inhibits control centers in the brain. A result is that a person under the influence may become more prone to violent behavior and respond more aggressively to provocation.

Lax criminal-justice systems. “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad,” says Ecclesiastes 8:11. Weak, incompetent, or corrupt systems of justice directly or indirectly promote violence.

False religion. Religion is often linked to violence, including sectarian violence and terrorism. But it is not just bigots, extremists, and fanatics who are to blame. During the two world wars, members of mainstream religions​—“Christian” and non-Christian—​slaughtered one another, often with the blessing of their spiritual leaders. Such behavior offends God.​—Titus 1:16; Revelation 17:5, 6; 18:24.

In view of the many forces that advocate or glorify violence, is it possible to become a truly peaceable person in today’s world? Yes, as we shall now see.

[Box on page 6]


Even though violence may be triggered by a number of elements, its primary roots lie within ourselves. How so? Jesus Christ, who had profound insight into the human heart, stated: “Out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, thieveries, murders, adulteries, covetings, acts of wickedness, deceit, loose conduct, an envious eye, blasphemy, haughtiness, unreasonableness.” (Mark 7:21, 22) We feed such wrong inclinations when we repeatedly look at, listen to, or think about bad things.​—James 1:14, 15.

On the other hand, when we feed our mind with wholesome things, such as those mentioned in the article on page 8, we starve and “deaden” bad desires and nurture good ones. (Colossians 3:5; Philippians 4:8) God will then help us “to be made mighty in the man [we] are inside.”​—Ephesians 3:16.

[Box on page 7]


Why do some countries report murder rates 60 times higher than others? Why have wars and other forms of violence been a constant feature of human history? Baffling questions are many; convincing answers are few.

Some researchers hold that poverty and inequality trigger violence. According to some statistics, about 90 percent of all violence-related deaths, including suicide, have occurred in the world’s less-prosperous nations; and the poorer neighborhoods of cities are often high-crime areas. But are poor people really more violent? Or do they suffer more violence because their communities cannot afford good-quality law enforcement? Then there are places like Calcutta, India, where millions live in extreme poverty. Yet, Calcutta has one of the world’s lowest murder rates.

Others theorize that the ready availability of guns makes a society more violent. Certainly, guns make violent people more dangerous. But why do some societies have a higher proportion of violent people? Again, experts cannot agree.