I spent a week in Colorado being trained as a nonviolent instructor. The first few days we spent time learning about the various principles and steps of nonviolence.
Six Principles of Nonviolence
- Nonviolence is the Way of Life for Courageous People
I’ve always loved this principle because it emphasizes that nonviolence is not easy or passive. There is a strength required to live a nonviolent life, and we have a CHOICE whether or not to follow that life-style. “We have the responsibility to ignite a fire inside one another that can consume the hatred, fear, and doubt in each of us and take over as a force of love that can bring about change even in the darkest situation.”
- The Beloved Community is the Framework for the Future
Dr. King’s hope and vision was so far past integration and racial equality. He saw a beautiful community where respect and love was at the forefront of everything. Every small step toward equality brings us closer to the Beloved Community, but the Beloved Community requires hearts to change, not just laws. It is not without conflict, but with a love and brotherhood that allows people to deal with conflict in a nonviolent, respectful manner. “Desegregation is only a small part of the Beloved Community. Integrated facilities and legislative changes can physically bring people together, but the Beloved Community requires an authentic integration in which people are brought together through genuine personal connections.
- Attack Forces of Evil, Not Persons Doing Evil
This principle focuses on how a person is more of a vessel than a force. But various information and judgments go into that vessel to make it act in an unjust or violent manner. Therefore, we must attack the information and forces of society that go into the person instead of attacking the vessel. Physical violence does not solve problems; it cannot destroy an idea, only a vessel that carries an idea. “Aggression must be directed toward alleviating the conditions. The personalities involved must be treated as human beings. The concept of dehumanization removes the humanity of the person and fails to see the past hurt, the ignorance, the hatred and fear that lies in all of us.”
- Accept Suffering Without Retaliation, for the Sake of the Cause to Achieve the Goal
When I first heard this principle, I thought it meant to accept that you’re going to get beaten at a lunch counter but it’s for a bigger cause. While it can definitely apply to that, I’ve learned that there is an internal struggle that one must suffer as well. Thoughts are always coming at us about not having the ability or worth or strength to do something, and when we suffer out those thoughts and learn to control them (which Principle 5 touches on greatly), we are able to truly help others, fight injustices, and achieve our goals. “Nonviolence can only be practiced when an individual is conscious of his own strength and power. This does not mean strength in a physical or material sense, but an undeterrable will towards realizing the Beloved Community.”
- Avoid Internal Violence of the Spirit, as well as External, Physical Violence
This principle really connects with me because it emphasizes that conflict can be, and in my case, mostly is, internal. I can have so many thoughts against myself about not being good enough or not being able to do something and THAT IS CONFLICT! And nonviolence can help me to manage and overcome those thoughts which not only can make me a stronger asset to the movement, but can also truly help me to have a healthier mind. When we learn to see our potential, our strength, and our abilities, even when we may not truly believe they’re all in us, we begin to function very differently. “ Accurate information inside our thoughts leads to actions that reflect the truth and accurate information, and that leads to the power to overcome the thoughts that hurt and tear us away from our full potential. The tougher our minds get, the softer our hearts become…”
- The Universe is on the Side of Justice
After I took the introductory training two years ago, this was the principle that stuck out to me. It takes a faith and a belief in what you’re doing to truly keep fighting; one has to believe that change will come and that there is a purpose to the fighting and suffering. “There must be an unshakable belief that nonviolence is without question the most powerful force for creating social change…The nonviolent practitioner must believe that because the universe bends towards justice, that their cause is destined to be won. They are already assured that love has overcome hate, and they combat social evils because they believe that peace, justice, and brotherhood will eventually win out.”
Six Steps of Nonviolence
1. Personal Commitment: Will you stay until it’s finished?
2. Information Gathering: Educating ourselves
3. Education: Educating others, helping them teach themselves
4. Negotiation: Only when you know your target and your goal
5. Direct Action: Only when negotiation does not work
6. Reconciliation: “It takes everyone in the community to perpetuate the status quo, and it takes everyone in the community to dismantle it and rebuild a community through nonviolence.”
This training has really pushed me to see the areas of conflict in my life, and I’m learning how to facilitate the same discoveries in others. Something I learned this week concerning current events was that Dylann Roof, before he killed the nine people in Charleston, SC, debated actually going through with his plan because the people in the church were so kind to him. One hour of nonviolence and love in that church almost reversed a decision based on 21 years of conditioning about racism and inferiority. It didn’t fully succeed, but that is a testament to how powerful and effective nonviolence is!
Sam Lee ’16