The Six Principles of Nonviolence


Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:

  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

    It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.

    The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.

    The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.

  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.

    Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.

    Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.

  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

    Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.

Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change

The six steps are derived from the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King and are promoted by the King Center.

  1. INFORMATION GATHERING: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position.
  2. EDUCATION: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION: Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. RECONCILIATION: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’

Based on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in Why We Can’t Wait, Penguin Books, 1963.

Will D. Campbell on Non-Violence

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

“First, if we cannot find it possible to refrain from violence, we can at least refrain from celebrating it, from being proud of it. . . We can make our national days of feasting and jubilation days of fasting and repentance. . . . To do otherwise is sure and certain blasphemy. Second, we of the Faith, we who claim to take our cue from the Christ, can cease to ask the State on every and on each occasion to tell us when our violence is permissible, when it is moral, ethical and all right. Even as we cease to do so, Caesar will say “But your Christ was not non-violent.” We do not say that Christ was non-violent, at least in our culturally defined use of the term. We say only that he was, and is, the Christ. “Ah, but your Messiah was no pacifist. He took a whip and drove folks out of the house of worship:’ And so He did. We are not contending that the Messiah was a pacifist. Again, not as we have permitted “civilization as we know it” to define and interpret. We are contending only that He was, and is, the Messiah. And then, parenthetically, add that it is a long way for sure from a leather strap to chase chicken peddlers out of the church house to dropping forty thousand tons of bombs on a tragic little country on His birthday.” – Will D. Campbell, in Katallagete, the journal of The Committee of Southern Churchmen.

WTH? My love for Will D. Campbell is well known. This post is part of a series – Wednesdays with Will, where I post a quote or selection from Brother Will that has been particularly inspirational to meaningful to me.

Will D. Campbell, on Freedom

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

“Later on, he reckoned that what he was really looking for was for someone to pay him to do and say what he wanted to do and say. Slowly he learned that that isn’t freedom, that freedom is not something you find or that someone gives you. It is something you assume. And then you wait for someone to come and take it away from you. The amount of resistance you put up is the amount of freedom you have.” – From Forty Acres and a Goat.

WTH? My love for Will D. Campbell is well known. This post is part of a series – Wednesdays with Will, where I post a quote or selection from Brother Will that has been particularly inspirational to meaningful to me.

Will D. Campbell on Patriotism

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

“I believe God made the St. Lawrence River, and the Rio Grande River, and the China Sea and the English Channel, but I don’t believe God made America, or Canada, or Mexico, or England, or China. Man did that. . . . It is doubtful that there has ever been a nation established for bad reasons. Nations are always established to escape tyranny, to combat evil, to find freedom, to reach heaven. Man has always been able to desire to build a heaven. But it seems he has never been able to admit that he didn’t pull it off. So he keeps insisting that he did pull it off. And that is really what patriotism is all about. It is the insistence that what we have done is sacred. It is that transference of allegiance from what God did in creating the whole wide world to what we have done with (or to) a little sliver of it. Patriotism is immoral. Flying a national flag—any national flag—in a church house is a symbol of idolatry. Singing ‘God Bless America’ in a Christian service is blasphemy. Patriotism is immoral because it is a violation of the First Commandment.” – Will D. Campbell, “I Love My Country: Christ Have Mercy,” Motive (December, 1969)

WTH? My love for Will D. Campbell is well known. This post is part of a series – Wednesdays with Will, where I post a quote or selection from Brother Will that has been particularly inspirational to meaningful to me.

ADHD and Shame

My Shame

The sense of shame that accompanies ADHD is the worst part of having it, in my opinion.  Here is the latest example.

Renee wants to visit her family in Wichita next weekend for her niece’s 1st birthday.  We don’t have much money, having just gotten back from the beach. So, I go on Priceline and “Name My own Price” for a $400 ticket with Delta, which is 30% cheaper than I can find anywhere else.

But because of my ADHD, my mind goes somewhere else and I have a ‘moment’ and accidentally type her maiden name in the form, and not her married name. None of her ID has her maiden name on it. Because we have been married for five years.

So I call Delta. They tell me I have to call Priceline. A nice man at Priceline named Joe (probably not his real name, because Joe has an outrageous accent, but who knows) tells me this is no problem. We just have to cancel the reservation, they will refund our money and I can bid again.

Oh, and there is a $40 fee for their doing this for me.

Oh, and the money won’t show up in my account until tomorrow – or maybe Thursday. You know, at the latest. The money I needed to buy the ticket. That money.

So, because of my pisspoor attention span, I am out $40, best case, and worst case, it is two days before I can try this again, and God only knows how much it will cost then.

No matter how often you repeat to yourself, “It was an honest mistake, it could have happened to anyone”, you never believe it.

If this were an isolated incident, I would shrug it off. But it isn’t. Stuff like this happens to us with ADHD all the time. Most of the time it only affects me. But when it affects others, the sense of shame is palpable.

Like last spring, I was scheduled to speak at a conference. I was to speak 4 times, and it was a three day conference – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Because I have preaching responsibilities at our chapel service, I made sure I was not scheduled to speak on Sunday, so I could leave the conference Saturday night to get back in time.

By “made sure”, I meant I made sure. I checked the agenda. I specified in my agreement that I was not to speak on Sunday. I verified it by phone weeks in advance.

And, you guessed it, when I got there, I was scheduled to speak on Sunday morning. But rather than assuming they screwed up, I assumed I screwed up. I called someone in to cover me on Sunday and was embarrassed about going to the organizers because what if it actually was my fault? What if I only thought I had verified it? (When you have ADHD, sometimes thinking about a thing feels like you did the thing.)

Turns out, it was their mistake, and I finally mentioned it to them, and they were profusely sorry, and canceled my Sunday talk and payed me anyway for the whole event. But none of that matters, because of shame. You tell yourself that this is your fault – because your whole damn life, things like screwed up schedules have been your fault.

So, we struggle on. We struggle on.