It is easy to speak of non-violence when you have nothing at risk.
But what does it mean to truly embrace non-violence? To commit to love even when you have everything at risk?
Mohandas Gandhi, who is so rightly revered for his own commitment to non-violence, famously offered this reflection:
Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. As it is, they succumbed anyway in their millions.
By committing to non-violence, by voluntarily seeking their own death, Gandhi believed the massacre of the Jewish people “could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant.”
That is what a commitment to non-violence looks like.
I don’t mean to argue here that one shouldn’t have a commitment to non-violence. I have been fortunate enough to never have truly tested my mettle in this regard, so I honestly don’t know what is right. What I do know is that while non-violence certainly sounds good, it is not a devotion one should take on lightly.
Non-violence is a bold commitment.
A commitment to the power of love over the power of hate. A commitment to the rightness of peace over the corruptness of brutality. It is a willingness to sacrifice yourself – to sacrifice everything – in the name of a greater cause.
It is more than a commitment to peaceful protests or uplifting words. A true commitment to non-violence takes a great leap of faith, a belief that love – just love – has the greatest power of positive transformation.
It is greeting your killer with love in your heart.
In “Loving Your Enemies,” the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
Perhaps more of us should do that. Perhaps more of us should put our faith in the power of love. Perhaps more of us should be willing to risk everything in embracing the transformative power of love.
But let’s not pretend that it is easy.
Let’s not pretend that it is obvious. And let’s not sit back in the comfort of our own homes and judge those who might turn to violence in the face of despair.
It is easy to speak of non-violence when you have nothing on the line.