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I'm Not a Pacifist... Am I?

Lighthouse in southern New Jersey.

For much of my life, I have considered myself not a pacifist. My reason was because pacifism as I understood it meant that I could not defend myself or someone else if attacked. I am not about to just let someone harm me without fighting back. At some point in the last several years, I decided I was a paciphile. Don't look in the dictionary, it's a word I made up. But what is a paciphile?

Breaking down the word, pac has Latin origins and means peace. Phile, on the other had, is Greek and means loving. So I call myself a paciphile because I love peace. I seek peace. I seek to avoid people and circumstances which would increase my likelihood of engaging in any combative behaviors. I make a conscious effort to surround myself and others with symbols of love and calm.

I recently decided to determine once and for all whether I can really say that I am a paciphile and not a pacifist. So I looked up the definition and read up about what it means to be a pacifist. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pacifist as someone "who opposes war or violence as a means of settling disputes." I sought to understand why I might have thought that pacifism went further, and found that there are people who include all forms of physical combat, such as protecting oneself from attack, in their definition of the term. This is likely how I began believing that I'm not a pacifist. I will defend myself and others when necessary, and refuse to subject myself to feelings of guilt in the event do so.

Did you know that there are pacifists who are serving or have served in the military? Many members of the military espouse the value that we should take all steps to avoid war and violence. Their perspective is that these options should be employed as last resorts, rather than as the go-to actions. I support that belief.

Now that I have a better understanding of what pacifism means, and that it doesn't necessarily mean one cannot defend herself, I can say with confidence that I was wrong. I am a pacifist, after all. But I'm also a paciphile. And proud of it.


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