DR. KING'S SIX
PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
Nonviolence is for courageous people. It’s a way of life.
Dr. King believed that nonviolence should transform our lives—completely. Nonviolence doesn’t just change the way we think or what we do—it’s a way of being in the world. If we stand for nonviolence, we can’t be apathetic—we have to act on behalf of victims. But we also have to change the way we respond to those we disagree with. Nonviolence means we stop retaliating and instead replace violence and hatred with peace and love.
Build the Beloved Community everywhere you go.
King’s ultimate ideal was the Beloved Community—a community where justice, peace, equality, and love overpower hatred and violence. In the Beloved Community, injustice is dealt with fairly and effectively, conflict is resolved through peacemaking, and violence no longer exists. By working one-on-one with victims and perpetrators of violence, we can help form Beloved Communities in our own neighborhoods and beyond.
Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil.
Nonviolence recognizes that violent people are not evil people—they are victims, too. When it comes to ending violence, we have to focus less on the violent act itself and more on finding the root of the problem. Whether violence stems from unjust systems or personal pain, we have to separate the action from the situation. By lovingly and respectfully working to understand the whole person, not just the crime they committed, we begin to understand that people aren’t the problem—conditions are. And if we work to change those conditions, we can begin to lessen violence.
Accept suffering without retaliation, for the sake of the just cause.
Sometimes suffering isn’t unjust. Sometimes punishment is fair. And sometimes sitting in your suffering leads to growth. By learning to move through pain peacefully, instead of fighting against it, we can learn to let go of violent reactions and negative outlooks. Being willing to accept pain and punishment shows your community that you are working toward goodness and encourages them in their efforts to do the same.
Avoid inner violence of the spirit as well as outward physical violence.
Violence isn’t just something that happens externally—it can take hold of your attitude, too. Dr. King once said, “The Nonviolent Resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him.” In practicing nonviolence, we affirm every individual’s value. We don’t think about or speak to anyone as anything less than an equal. A nonviolent heart encourages us to treat each other with respect and, when we differ, to approach tension with an attitude of understanding.
The universe is on the side of justice.
As nonviolent resisters, we believe that deep down, everyone is opposed to injustice, so eventually justice will win. We can never lose hope that every individual has the ability to change. And it is our responsibility to do our part in making that change happen.