What is Nonviolence?

What is Nonviolence?

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

A whole passle of folks expressed surprise, and even consternation – at my post What Is Violence?

I guess it’s past time to look at the other side of the coin, nonviolence.

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


The roots of nonviolence as a philosophy go back to at least 1000BC with the Sanskrit word and idea of Ahisma – i.e. not harming, or nonviolence. Ahisma has become a spiritual doctrine shared today by Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.


More recently, O Sensei placed nonviolence at the heart of Aikido.


Famous proponents of nonviolence include Leo Tolstoy, Thomas A. Edison, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Joan Baez, Cesar Chavez and Nelson Mandela. The therapist Marshall Rosenberg built the practice of Nonviolent Communication on the principles of nonviolence.

Core Themes

Nonviolence proposes that social change, relationships, and other interpersonal interactions flourish best when people choose to refrain from harming others.

For me, a central them of nonviolence is free will. I choose to regard coercion – through e.g. fear, obligation, guilt, duty or shame – as much a form of violence as punching someone in the mouth. I therefore prefer to use invitation (asking) in the place of instruction (telling).

Another common theme is the avoidance of moralistic judgments:

“Moralistic judgments are those built on [an ideology] that implies the human beings are very lazy, evil and violent. Therefore the corrective process is penitence. You have to make them hate themselves for what they’ve done, to believe that they deserve to suffer for what they’ve done.”

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

Neither Passivity Nor Pacifism

Nonviolent advocates and activists reject the equating of nonviolence with e.g. peace, passivity, inaction or pacifism. Inherent in the idea of nonviolence is its use as a tool in protest, resistance, action and even revolution.

From The Heart

Closely associated with nonviolence are concepts such as love, compassion, non-theist spirituality and acting from the heart, out of interest in and concern for “what’s alive in people”.

“Nonviolence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi


Would you be willing to share what nonviolence means to you? And any questions or reservations you might have?

– Bob

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: