“Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. I feel that we’ve got to look at this total thing anew and recognize that we must live together. That the whole world now it is one–not only geographically but it has to become one in terms of brotherly concern. Whether we live in America or Asia or Africa we are all tied in a single garment of destiny and whatever effects one directly, effects one in-directly.
“I’m concerned about living with my conscience and searching for that which is right and that which is true, and I cannot live with the idea of being just a conformist following a path that everybody else follows. And this has happened to us. As I’ve said in one of my books, so often we live by the philosophy ‘Everybody’s doing it, it must be alright.’ We tend to determine what is right and wrong by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion, and I don’t think this is the way to get at what is right.
“Arnold Toynbee talks about the creative minority and I think more and more we must have in our world that creative minority that will take a stand for that which conscience tells them is right, even though it brings about criticism and misunderstanding and even abuse.”
—Martin Luther King (1967)
Nonviolence: A Way of Life
Marcel M. Baumann
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy and methods of nonviolence are some of the most powerful tools we have for creating social change in America and around the world. But nonviolence is not only a method for social change, but a positive way of life that becomes a part of all of our personal relationships and everything we do in our homes, communities and political and business life. It is a permanent attitude that is reflected even in the choice and tone of words, in body language and way of thinking.
Dr. King defined six principles of nonviolence which were the heart of his philosophy of nonviolence. A commitment to these six principles is the key to making nonviolence a way of life in our personal relationships and in resolving conflicts, reconciling adversaries and creating social change at the community, national and international levels. He also identified the six steps of nonviolence as a methodology for applying the six principles in solving problems and resolving conflicts peacefully.
Dr. King said, just a few weeks before he was assassinated, “I plan to stand by nonviolence because I have found it to be a philosophy of life that regulates not only my dealings in the struggle for racial justice, but also my dealings with people, with my own self.”
Dr. King taught us that nonviolence first transforms the person who embraces it. Nonviolence is radical in the deepest sense of the word because it changes the spirit behind attitudes. Once the spirit of nonviolence is internalized, goals like domination, conquest or retaliation no longer drive behavior. When this happens the stage is set for a dramatic transformation of the relationship.
We are challenged to experiment with applying his principles in our daily lives, especially in resolving the conflicts that we encounter. Dr. King taught that nonviolence is a powerful tool for revolutionary personal transformation. As we begin to internalize these teachings, we develop a greater sense of wholeness and meaning in our lives. We cultivate virtues like love, truth, commitment, respect and courtesy, courage, self-discipline, hard work, honesty and social responsibility. These are the some of the core values involved in making nonviolence a way of life.
Nonviolence as a way of life challenges us to rise above the debilitating emotions of hatred and to purge our contempt and animosity toward adversaries. Instead of returning anger with anger, we set an example of emotional maturity. We educate the public and we win the respect and support of the community. We acquire a moral and spiritual power that can not be denied. To internalize the spirit of nonviolence, we refuse to be bated into petty arguments. We challenge negative energy and violence with a loving, positive attitude. This is how nonviolence disarms adversaries. As Dr. King said, “Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate by projecting the ethics of love into the center of our lives.”
A commitment to study and practice nonviolence in our personal lives gives us an edge in resolving conflicts and in achieving your goals without making enemies. These teachings can help improve our family relationships and our dealings with friends and our peers. Nonviolence can help us more effectively communicate with our adversaries and resolve disputes in a way that benefits everyone.
The way most people deal with a conflict is by first asking themselves the question, “How can I get my way?” This is the normal way of dealing with a problem. When we think this way, as we all do so often, we let our egos manage the conflict.
But there is a better way. When we make nonviolence a way of life, the first question we ask at a time of conflict is, “What is the most loving thing to do?” When we think this way, we tap the power of the soul. We overcome the narrow, selfish concerns of the ego.
We don’t want to destroy our opponent. We want to win their friendship and understanding. We try to find a “win-win” solution, which benefits everyone. This is how we create lasting peace. We resolve the conflict, not with the attitude of a conqueror, but with the motivation of a peace-maker.
In practicing Kingian nonviolence, we make a commitment to unconditional love for all people without exceptions. We reject all forms of hatred, even for our opponents. We respect the humanity of everyone, especially our enemies. In fact, we don’t even like the word
“enemies.” We prefer the word “adversaries” because it has less animosity and makes us think about the conflict on a higher level.
Nonviolence as a way of life requires that we learn self-discipline and confidence, which is the key to self-esteem. We also learn how to control anger and channel it into constructive and creative action to achieve our goals. We practice the art of nonviolent communication, so we can persuade adversaries instead of fighting with them.
The key to making nonviolence a way of life is to accept love as the guiding principle of all our relationships. Pain and suffering comes into all of our lives; but only love can heal the wounds of the past. Only love can lift us up and make us whole and free. If you let love rule your heart, there is no obstacle, no barrier, no problem you can’t overcome. This is God’s promise to every human being and it is the key to liberation for us all. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and it is also the most available force, because everyone can tap into it.
For more about Martin Luther King, Jr. visit The King Center
Jump into synergic science by reading We Can All Win!, If you are creating a new organization, or desire to synergize an old one, read Ortegrity. If you’re interested in how to make decisions in a win-win world read Sociocracy.
Looking for a guide to synergic decision, read aSynergic Version of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Read the Synergic Future Series: 1) Beyond Property 2) Redefining Wealth 3) Synergic Wealth 4) Synergic Wealth II: Deepening Our Understanding 5) Trustegrities — Protecting the Future and 6) Synergic Guardians — Protecting the Future.