Nonviolence is more than simply being “not violent.” It is a proactive force for change. You can be “not violent” and be a bystander to violence and injustice, watching it happen and do nothing about it. However, a commitment to nonviolence means a commitment to standing up against the forces of violence and injustice.
Nonviolence is a refusal to shoot your opponent, but also a refusal to hate your opponent. Being driven by hate is unsustainable, and it impacts you more than the person you hate. Holding hate in your heart against even the “worst” opponent is an act of internal, emotional and spiritual violence you commit to yourself. “I have chosen to stick with love. Hate is too heavy a burden to bear.” – Dr. King
Nonviolence is about having unwavering faith in humanity. It is about recognizing that each of us has a moral conscience that can be reached, nurtured and cultivated. It is about never giving up on any individual, no matter how much harm they may have caused in the past, and never losing faith in the power of transformation.
Nonviolence challenges the notion that we can continue to use violence to make the changes we want to see. Regardless of how just your cause may be, if you use violence, fear and intimidation to get what you want, you are perpetuating the cycle of violence and injustice. In nonviolence, the means do not justify the ends. Rather, the means and ends must be interchangeable.
Nonviolence works to change people as well as systems. Even an outright overthrow of an unjust government will not end violence, racism, patriarchy or the many other forces of injustice. Systems are driven by people, and if the people are still corrupt, they will corrupt any system. Nonviolence aims to change not only policies and structures, but also our culture and value systems.
Nonviolence is a commitment to being the change we want to see. Nonviolence allows us to use tactics and strategies that are in line with our moral principles. The values that serve as the foundation for the ideal community we all want to live in – compassion, understanding, justice, love – must be reflected in the process of getting there. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi
Nonviolence moves aggressively with the power of agape love. Nonviolence recognizes that agape love is the most powerful weapon available to us, and that it can bring about powerful transformation. It is the only force that can turn dark into light. And we recognize that love can be aggressive and assertive. “Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” – Che
Nonviolence is the antidote to violence. Rather than thinking of it as the “opposite” of violence, Dr. King and Dr. LaFayette teaches us that it is the antidote. Only through the forces of nonviolence can we defeat violence.