Violence begets violence

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It Shoots Further Than He Dreams by John F. Knott, March 1918.

The phrase "violence begets violence" (or "hate begets hate") means that violent behaviour promotes other violent behaviour, in return. The phrase has been used since the early 19th century.[1][2]

Violence begets violence is a concept described in the Gospel of Matthew, verse 26:52.[3][4][5] The passage depicts a disciple (identified in the Gospel of John as Peter) drawing a sword to defend against the arrest of Jesus but being told to sheath his weapon:

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."[6]

Words by Martin Luther King Jr.[edit]

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) used the phrase when saying:[7][8][9]

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love... Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.[7]

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mr. Corbett's Address. Prefixed to the First Number of his Register, published in America (1918)". The Freeman's Journal. 1816-09-06. p. 4. Retrieved 2021-02-13.
  2. ^ ""Violence begets violence" (1834)". The Times. 1834-11-04. p. 2. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
  3. ^ "Matthew 26:52 Commentary - John Gill's Exposition of the Bible". Bible Study Tools.
  4. ^ "Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete)".
  5. ^ "Matthew 26:52 Commentaries: Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword".
  6. ^ Matthew 26:52, New International Version.
  7. ^ a b "Struggle for Equality: Quotes From Martin Luther King, Jr". Scholastic Inc. January 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  8. ^ King Jr., Martin Luther; Carson, CLayborn (2010). Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. pp. 256 (p. 74). ISBN 9780807000694. ISBN 0-8070-0069-8
  9. ^ "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration - Quotes". January 30, 2011.
  10. ^ Martin Luther King Jr. (1967). Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67.