What Is Nonviolence, Really?

I'm going to begin this post by saying my answer to this question is a work in progress. That said, I do want to share what I currently mean when I refer to nonviolence, especially as we move toward exploring this subject intentionally in this online space.

Currently, when I refer to nonviolence, I mean three things.

  1. Nonviolence means protecting the innocent. A whole lot of violence exists in the world, and most of it is brought against innocents. Whether the innocents are young girls sold into brothels, young boys made into soldiers, civilians hit by falling missiles, families swindled into slavery, or fifth graders stuffed into lockers, nonviolence says the innocent deserve their dignity. This is part of the ethic of nonviolence committed to social -- and interpersonal -- justice.
  2. Nonviolence means loving our enemies. Just as nonviolence looks at injustice and is willing to stand up and say "no," nonviolence is also, at one and the same time, unwilling to hate the unjust. We do not diminish the humanity of the offender. We take the incredibly audacious stance of choosing to love our enemies. We might even say the nonviolent way of life means refusing to name anyone an enemy.
  3. Nonviolence means examining and purifying our hearts. It's easy to keep nonviolence on the back burner or in the history books or news headlines when we don't personally encounter violence in daily life. And yet violence lodges itself in each of our hearts every day. In split-second flashes, we judge, hate, criticize, demean, condescend, covet, envy, and dismiss other human beings. For much of our days, we think of ourselves more than others. We blur the lines and choose the path of least resistance. We instinctively compete and are altogether dedicated to our self-preservation. These, too, are issues of violence. The nonviolent journey is committed to purifying the muddy waters of the heart.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the considerations that continually come to mind when I reference this term and as I consider what it means for me to be a person committed to nonviolence.

What would you add to this list?