a place for principles of nonviolence

When we empathize with the story, it brings relief… when we empathize with the need, it bring healing… when we integrate principles in our empathy, it brings transformation. -Miki Kashtan

After eight years of practicing Nonviolent Communication, I have witness so much healing and transformation. I have seen this take place intrapersonally, in relationships between couples, friends and coworkers. I have even seen communities in conflict transform into mutually supportive communities. I would say that the primary ingredient in all of these situations is empathy, peoples ability to listen and acknowledge each others perspective.

Although, there has been situation where this hasn’t been one hundred percent true. I have spent countless hours listening to people and notice them walk away with a sense of relief and yet continue to hold on to some resentment. This leads me to believe that empathy isn’t necessarily enough, for true transformation to take place one must reframe their experience. They must walk away with a different understanding, perhaps a deeper understanding of their experience. Empathy sometimes offers this sense of depth but not always. In order for one to experience transformation  they must transcended blame into responsibility, attachment to outcomes to non-attachment and violent programing into nonviolence. I believe this is where having a firm grounding in nonviolent principles really makes a difference.

For example, if you take Martin Luther Kings principle that “Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.” He implies that in order for someone to hurt another, they too must have been hurt. This principles invites us to a new paradigm shift from dualism and punishment to compassion and understanding.

When I lead groups in Nonviolent Communication and nonviolence, I make two promises. If you embrace these principles you will suffer less and experience more freedom. You will suffer less because you will learn to experience conflict differently. Rather than avoid conflict, you will embrace it as an avenue for growth and personal liberation. This way we embrace our diversity, and see our social, cultural and habitual programing as something to support each other in liberating, rather than to shame and guilt each other for our behavior.

You will experience more freedom, as you begin to see opportunity in the world that goes beyond our domination culture. My hope is that you will help in creating new system that honor human needs, rather than dominate structures designed to control us. Nonviolence invites us into compassion, it offers a new lens to see through. This is the ultimate gift and power of nonviolence.


For additional material on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Principles of Non-violence, read “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom, Harper & Row. 1958

Principle One: Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.

  • It is active non-violent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It is always persuading the opponent of righteousness of your cause.

Principle Two: Non-violence 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: Non-violence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.

  • Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.
  • The non-violent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.

Principle Four: Non-violence holds that suffering educates and reforms.

  • Non-violence accepts suffering without retaliation. Non-violence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
  • Non-violence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
  • Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  • Suffering has the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

Principle Five: Non-violence chooses love instead of hate.

  • Non-violence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
  • Non-violent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  • Non-violent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
  • Non-violent love is active, not passive.
  • Non-violent love is unending in its ability to forgive in order to restore community.
  • Non-violent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
  • Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
  • Love restores community and resists injustice.
  • Non-violence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

Principle Six: Non-violence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

  • The non-violent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
  • Non-violence believes that God is a God of justice.
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3 Responses to a place for principles of nonviolence

  1. Jim says:


    I enjoyed your reflections on the importance of the underlying principles of nonviolence, and the promises of practicing these principles in terms of less suffering and more personal liberation.

    What would make the article even more powerful would be a story, especially one about your own journey. I know you have written stories like that, and they have the power to awaken the experience of empathy and liberation even as we read them.

    What do you think?

  2. Ron Estrada says:

    I appreciate how you point out the structure(principle) in our (human) desire to explain transcendence. It is brave of you along with others to begin to label and define the complexity that is human connection. I think the expanding and elaboration of residual attitudes resulting from the healing process is often not described, in our natural world I thin the “scar” might be a good analogy. How can we decorate, accept, or value our scars.
    I too can empathize with the gradual effects of non-violent communication. I too can align with your awareness that it is not a series of steps or checklist to be achieved. There seems to always be a principle set of ingredients needed, but for that last remnant bitterness or stubbornness there must be a unique set of spices to help me palate the remaining harsh but nourishing spite or bitterness. I need something special to accept the scars.

    Inspiring words Will. I am not sure if I interpreted your writing accurately, but I am thankful for the new perspective and insight I have gained from attempting to broaden my own understanding of the non-violent experience.

    What might have made the read more concise for me? I think your hope for me, the reader, to be creative in my understanding of non-violence can be repeated and opening up with it in the introduction, possibly even in your title, would have primed my mind. What you want of me as the reader is held till the end, although the process was completed, hopefully.

    I was not inspired to challenge or confront. I was inspired to consider and question. This led me to consider the complexity that comes with the intense conditions that are created in forgiveness, vulnerability, and transcendence.

    I feel valued in contributing to your ideas. Thank you!

  3. Torry Dickinson says:

    You are offering so much to others here.
    As I read your thoughts, I think of all the work I need to do to become a daily practitioner of nonviolence.
    My friend Susan Allen with Nonviolence Studies at Kansas State University writes about the practice of everyday nonviolence. She talks about the need to change culture on a daily basis. Her work comes to mind when I read your ideas about nonviolence.
    As I read MLK’s principles of nonviolence from _Stride Toward Freedom_, I found myself re-reading the part about forgiveness. I have been working on forgiveness lately. I see people making decisions that divide friends, reinforce power hierarchies, and widen social divisions when they could be making decisions to create solidarity and cultivate the Beloved Community. This can be very painful to me and my reaction can block forgiveness. I remind myself that we’re all imperfect and that we all have a long way to go. When we learn something new, things are revealed that were unseen before. There’s always a new revelation and new steps to take, alone and with others.
    I agree with your point that we need to go beyond feeling empathy. Social transformation is critical. I will be thinking about your ideas of moving from blame to responsibility, from attachment to outcomes to non-attachment, and from violence to nonviolence. I think these are important processes of change, but I hadn’t really thought about it in this way until now.
    I believe that you have a lot to offer various groups, movements, and organizations. I encourage you to come up with ways to reach the people who need you and who are ready to make the transformations that will carry us forward.

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