One common misconception about nonviolence is that it is a weak, passive philosophy. But Kingian Nonviolence is about taking a stand against injustice, to make a commitment to looking injustice in the face and confronting it with the power of Agape, of unconditional love for humankind.
To confront anything in the face takes courage, and to do so without resorting to violence takes not only courage, but practice, discipline, compassion and a deep desire for justice.
During the Civil Rights movement, movement participants joined in marches and rallies, knowing that the police may attack them with viscous acts of violence: police dogs, fire hoses, beatings. And they knew that if the police used overt levels of violence, they as a movement had committed to nonviolence and they could not strike back. To go out into the streets with that understanding, knowing that their sacrifice may bring about large social change, is something that is far from a passive act. To take a stand against violence and injustice, and to commit to confronting it is far from weak.
Nonviolence is a powerful, active force.
It is also a way of life because to be nonviolent does not mean simply that you are “not violent,” but that you confront injustice wherever you see it. Large social injustice is the result of smaller, accumulated injustices. There is no injustice that is too small to be confronted, and we cannot wait until violence occurs to practice nonviolence. We cannot practice our principles only when we are in activist spaces, or assume that injustice does not happen in progressive circles.
Being committed to nonviolence means committing yourself to the role of peace-maker. It means when you see violence or injustice anywhere, that you are committing to acting or speaking out against it. True nonviolence is not only a strategy or a tactic, it is a way of life.