What would Martin Luther King, Jr have done in response to the murder of yet anothera black man by a white policeman? We’ve had that question in mind as we witnessed the waves of protest, some violent, sweeping our country for the past week. We found the answer in Martin Luther King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence*. They go far beyond the political activism and nonviolent protest he exemplified. They are a way of life that takes courage to employ on even the most personal and private level.
We are especially moved by Principle Five and its acknowledgement of the violence that can be done to the spirit, unseen but fiercely powerful and pervasive in our time, which so many people we know feel. For King, choosing love instead of hate in even the smallest of interactions is the most powerful antidote we can embrace.
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Dr. King experienced violence on a number of occasions and was jailed many times. In the photograph, above, from the Bettman Archive taken in 1958 in Montgomery, Alabama, Police officers O.M. Strickland and J.V. Johnson apply force in arresting the Reverend Martin Luther King for loitering near a courtroom where one of his integration lieutenants was on the stand. King charged he was beaten and choked by the arresting officers. Police denied the charges.
Yet he persisted in living his principles. He employed nonviolence as “an active force, aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.” He showed us that it is possible.
Opening at random The Dalai Lama’s Essential Teachings echoed his view. He considered Gandhi’s nonviolent way “an introduction of the ancient practice of nonviolence into politics that represents an evolutionary leap for mankind.”
My belief is that nonviolence is simple realism...Nothing that violence achieves is stable. This is a law. Only a wise, loving, patient intelligence can create anything that lasts; only altruism really helps. This is a law too. My definition of altruism is: be wisely selfish and know that your happiness depends on the the happiness of those around you and the world in general. If society suffers you will suffer, so love your self enough to work for the social good.”
*Read more about King’s principles and philosophy at The King Center.
The photo, at top, was taken by Don Cravens in 1956 after King was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama while protesting the segregation of city buses; he was waiting to have a mugshot taken. Cravens documented the bus boycott over several years, culminating with Rose Parks riding a city bus after the Supreme Court ruled against segregated buses.