Some wise, powerful quotations about NONVIOLENCE

“I have come into this world to see this: the swords drop from men’s hands even at the height of their arc of rage because we have finally realized there is just one flesh we can wound.”  — Hafiz (the great Persian poet from the 1300s who is still highly respected in Iran nowadays)


“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”  — Nelson Mandela


“If you want to see the brave, look at those who can forgive. If you want to see the heroic, look at those who can love in return for hatred.”  — The Bhagavad Gita


“‘Ubuntu’ is very difficult to render into a Western language. . . . It is to say: ‘My humanity is caught up, it is inextricably bound up, in yours.’”  —  Desmond Tutu


“Violent tactics and strategies rely on polarization and dualistic thinking and require us to divide ourselves into good and bad, assume neat, rigid little categories easily answered from the barrel of a gun. Nonviolence allows for the complexity inherent in our struggles and requires a reasonable acceptance of diversity and an appreciation for our common ground.”  — Pam McAllister, You Can’t Kill the Spirit


“The most maximal meaning of nonviolence is the one that counts humanity as ‘we’; sees violence as ‘inhibiting self-realization,’ and defines nonviolence as encompassing both maximal without violence and against violence.”  — Stellan Vinthagen, A Theory of Nonviolent Action


“Nonviolent strategy calls those who are now faithful to the good present inside them, to awaken the good inside their adversaries who at that same moment serve violence or injustice. This dynamic is built on confidence in the divine power of the good and its unity.”  — Alain J. Richard


“Nonviolence isn’t sitting back with your arms folded. It is first recognizing that the very person who is your oppressor is also your brother or sister. One day he or she may stop being your oppressor, but they’ll never stop being your brother or sister.”  — Jose Maria Pires, in Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One: Voices and Visions of Liberation


“Nonviolent communication is humbly speaking the truth of the situation as it was actually observed and felt by one person, without judgement or diagnosis. When others can listen to that truth without defensiveness, it becomes a ‘large communion’ of deep compassion. Listening with the ears of the heart and speaking it in a non-accusatory way that can be heard are key to breakthrough.”  — Dr. Marshall Rosenberg


“Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear; love transforms hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Peace dominates war; faith reconciles doubt. Mutual regard cancels enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice. The redemptive community supersedes systems of gross social immorality.”  — James Lawson


“The coercive capacity of nonviolent resistance is not based on violent disruption to the social order. Rather, it is based on the removal of the adversary’s key sources of power through sustained acts of protest and noncooperation.”  — Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works


“Nonviolence is not a set of tactics but a force that is inherent in the human spirit. To fully understand it requires a change in consciousness and a recommitment to a set of core values. To restore our democracy, save the planet, and remind us of the possibility of peace we long for, we require a dramatic cultural shift wherein we each take ownership of our own actions and the principles of nonviolence.”  — US Representative Pramila Jayapal, in Foreword to The Third Harmony by Michael Nagler


“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favours such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.”  — Daniel Berrigan


“The survival of democracy depends on the renunciation of violence and the development of nonviolent means to combat evil and advance the good.”  — AJ Muste


“It is clear that nonviolent struggle is an important part of political reality. It has often been belittled or ignored by persons, movements, or governments that ‘know’ that the ‘real’ power derives from violence. However, nonviolent struggle is another very powerful form of force.”  — Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle


“People turn to war and violence not because they are wicked or hateful. They resort to violence because they do not see any other option for resolving intractable conflicts. It is (therefore) fruitful to show how a strategy of nonviolent conflict can be an effective alternative to armed struggle.”  — Gene Sharp


“How do you know you have forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel compassion for the person rather than anger. You tend to have nothing left to say about it at all.”  — Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Behind every converted nonviolent struggle there is a powerful mistica: the conviction that truth, justice, and love are ontological. That is to say, these are objective forces tied to the very structure of reality, of human society, of being human. No matter how much they are violated, they always persist, and they find an echo in both the consciousness of people and in historical processes. These are the banners that never fail . . . the mistica of active nonviolence implies changing ourselves as well as working to change the world. We must live the truth. We must be just, our integrity transparent. We must be peacemakers.”  — Leonardo Boff


“Satyagraha is truth-force, love-force, soul-force—words describing a process of spiritual transformation which goes far beyond the usual meanings attached to ‘nonviolence.’ It is rooted in the belief that truth/love/soul-force is the most powerful force in existence, a spiritual reality as unexplored today as the power of the atom was a century ago.”  — James W. Douglass, Lightning East to West


“Is there a spiritual reality, inconceivable to us today, which corresponds in history to the physical reality which Einstein discovered and which led to the atomic bomb? Einstein discovered a law of physical change: the way to convert a single particle of matter into enormous physical energy. Might there not also be, as Gandhi suggested, an equally incredible and undiscovered law of spiritual change, whereby a single person or a small community of persons could be converted into an enormous spiritual energy capable of transforming a society and a world?”    -James W. Douglass, Lightning East to West


“(Nonviolence) has been marginalized because it is one of the rare truly revolutionary ideas, an idea that seeks to completely change the nature of society, a threat to the established order. And it has always been treated as something profoundly dangerous.”  — Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence


“Today’s world is traveling in some strange direction. You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people. There is advantage only in construction. I want to tell you categorically I will not support anybody in destruction.”  — Khan Ghaffar Khan   He was also known by the name Badshah Khan and was highly respected as “The Frontier Gandhi.”  For many years, Badshah Khan – a devout pacifist Muslim from the mountainous Pashtun area of what is now in Pakistan, NW of India and near Afghanistan – practiced courageous nonviolent resistance to the British Empire along with Mohandas (“the Mahatma”) Gandhi.  He found that profound nonviolence was fully compatible with his Islamic faith, just as Gandhi found it fully compatible with his Hindu faith.  This man organized an “army” of pacifist Muslims to practice Satyagraha in support of independence – and he spent many years in prisons in his homeland.  (Some accounts exceed the 16 years I had heard of, ranging up to 30 or 37 years in total.)  I highly recommend the informative and inspiring book by Eknath Easwaran titled:  A Man to Match His Mountains.


“Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms.  He is urging us to transcend both passivity and violence by finding a third way, one that is at once assertive and yet nonviolent. ”  — –  Walter Wink The Powers that Be


“Peacemaking, like most beautiful things, begins small. Matthew 18 gives us a clear process for making peace with someone who has hurt or offended us; first we are to talk directly with them, not at them or around them . . . Straight talk is counter-cultural in a world that prefers politeness to honesty.  Peacemaking begins with what we can change—ourselves. But it doesn’t end there. We are to be peacemakers in a world riddled with violence. That means interrupting violence with imagination, in our streets and in our world.”  — Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals


“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.”  — Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”


“Nonviolent campaigns fail to achieve their objectives when they are unable to overcome the challenge of participation, when they fail to recruit a robust, diverse, and broad-based membership that can erode the power base of the adversary and maintain resilience in the face of oppression.”  — Erica Chenoweth Why Civil Resistance Works – Page 11


“When anyone steps out of the system and tells the truth, lives the truth, that person enables everyone else to peer behind the curtain too. That person has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth . . . ‘Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal.’ Anyone who steps out of line therefore ‘denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.’”  — Vaclav Havel


“It is surprising how few people have seriously considered nonviolence as a way of life and a strategy for social change. . . . We trust violence. Violence ‘saves.’. . . We trust violence because we are afraid. And we will not relinquish our fears until we are able to imagine a better alternative.”  — Walter Wink


“The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support.”  — Étienne De La Boétie, The Politics Of Obedience


“Nonviolent action is a means of combat, as is war. It involves the matching of forces and the waging of ‘battle,’ requires wise strategy and tactics and demands of its ‘soldiers’ courage, discipline and sacrifice. This view of nonviolent action as a technique of active combat is diametrically opposed to the popular assumption that, at its strongest, nonviolent action relies on rational persuasion of the opponent, and more commonly it consists simply of passive submission.”  — Gene Sharp


“We tend to think the problem is that human beings have this natural tendency to kill, and yet in the middle of a hot war, WWII, a ‘good war,’ as it were, the US army was astonished to learn that at least three out of every four riflemen who were trained and commanded to kill, could not bring themselves to pull the trigger when they could see the person they were ordered to kill. And that inner resistance to violence is a well kept secret.”  — William Ury


“Conventional war wisdom says that without war, Hitler wouldn’t have been defeated. The more radical wisdom of nonviolence says that it was because of war itself and its necessary false obedience that Hitler even came to power at all. If nonviolence had been lived, Hitler would not have been obeyed in the first place.”  — Leonard Desroches, Allow the Water


“I DESPERATELY want a movement space that knows that compassion is not a zero-sum game. Where we have compassion for people’s ignorance. Where we are allowed to be messy and to make mistakes. Where accountability is an act of love and the word ‘holding’ is the key word in ‘holding others accountable.’ Where the sanctity of all life and our interdependence to everything that exists is so deeply known and felt that no person will ever question their sense of belonging. Where no matter what any of us has done, that we all know that there will always be space for us here. That no matter what we have done, we will trust our circle enough to grieve the harm that we caused and to say, ‘yes, I did that,’ and know that we will not be cast out of humanity. Where we can learn to respond to even the most egregious harms without letting our sights off of the North Star of healing.”  — Kazu Haga


“We’ve got thousands of years of training in organized violence, so we just assume that’s what works. People say, ‘Well you’re either a fighter or you’re passive.’ But one must accept nonviolence as a form of fighting, and that’s very hard for people to understand. However, compassion and joy can be as contagious as war fever.”  — Joan Baez


“I am convinced now, more than ever, that there is something we can do to create a ‘new normal’ in America—one that emphasizes nonviolence over violence, love over hate. Creating nonviolent schools is an essential component that, in conjunction with common sense gun laws that value human lives, will redefine the world we want our children to grow up in.”  — Robin Wildman


“Organizers of civil resistance cannot be content with merely ‘speaking truth to power.’ They must be hard-headed in assessing their progress in winning over advocates and sympathizers from outside their immediate networks, always guarding against tendencies to become insular ‘voices in the wilderness.’”  — Mark Engler and Paul Engler, This is an Uprising


“Violence has not practical results towards building a strengthened community or solving the problems of human prejudice, bias, and injustice. People accept the ideological or even religious myth that if you want to get things done, violence is the way. But violence is not even the faster way. It complicates issues, increases and escalates pain, postpones the hard work of facing the problem and healing it. Violence can kill somebody and destroy buildings. But it cannot build a house or create a community that is more just and fair.”  — Reverend James Lawson


“What we need is not another doctrine, but an awakening that can restore our spiritual strength. What made Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle a great success was not a doctrine—not even the doctrine of nonviolence—but Gandhi himself, his way of being. A lot is written today about the doctrine of nonviolence and people everywhere are trying to apply it. But they cannot rediscover the vitality that Gandhi had, because the ‘Gandhians’ do not possess Gandhi’s spiritual strength. They have faith in his doctrine but cannot set into motion a movement of great solidarity because none of them possess the spiritual force of a Gandhi and therefore cannot produce sufficient compassion and sacrifice.”  — Thich Nhat Hahn


The Martin Luther King, Jr., Center says:   “During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s preeminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.”   The Center shares King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence for us to reflect upon, share and carry out.

Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:

PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence 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: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.  The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.

PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.  Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.

See more at the King Center here.


“Nonviolence is not a political weapon or a technique for social change so much as it is an essential art—perhaps the essential art—of civilization. Nonviolence is a way of thinking, a way of life, not a tactic, but a way of putting love to work in resolving problems, healing relationships, and generally raising the quality of our lives. Nonviolence is a skill. Love is a skill. The transformation of anger is a skill. All these can be learned. We cannot say we aren’t capable of nonviolence; all we can say is we are not willing to do what is necessary to learn.”  — Eknath Easwaran


“Just imagine if all the energy that goes into fighting other people and reinforcing the belief in separateness was instead directed at showing respect for people. What if the five R’s of restorative justice—respect, relationship, responsibility, repair, and reintegration—were guiding principles of our activism?”  — G. Scott Brown


Jesus’ Third Way:

– Seize the moral initiative.

– Find a creative alternative to violence.

– Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person

– Meet force with ridicule or humor

– Break the cycle of humiliation

– Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position

– Expose the injustice of the system

– Take control of the power dynamic

– Shame the oppressor into repentance

– Stand your ground

– Force the Powers to make decisions for which they are not prepared

– Recognize your own power

– Be willing to suffer rather than to retailiate

– Cause the oppressor to see you in a new light

– Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective

– Be willing to undergo the penalty for breaking unjust laws

– Die to fear of the old order and its rules

Fight: Submission — Passivity — Withdrawal —Surrender

Fight: Armed revolt — Violent rebellion — Direct retaliation — Revenge

— Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way


“Gandhi’s legacy is a legacy of love, compassion, and sacrifice. In the 1970s, in response to deforestation, women in the women’s movement started hugging the tress, saying, ‘You will have to kill us before you cut the trees.’ In 1981 we had a terrible flood and a four-mile lake was formed because of deforestation, and after that, finally, the women were listened to. Gandhi’s Salt March was so imaginative, so inspirational. Unjust laws are meant to be disobeyed, to create a moral order. Dr. King and Mandela used the same philosophy. Gandhi shifted the mind of the world. Environmentalists started to do with forest what Gandhi did with salt. A huge forest satyagraha campaign was started.”  — Vandana Shiva quoted in Put Down Your Sword by John Dear


Lithuania’s Nonviolent Civilian-Based Defense — by Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence

On December 19th, 1996, the small country of Lithuania became a world leader in the field of nonviolence. After waging nonviolent struggle to regain independence and end Soviet occupation in 1991, Lithuanians had learned the power of active nonviolence . . . and as their new independence government began to draw up policy around defense and military, they brought their hard-won lessons to the conversation. They consulted with Gene Sharp on the concepts of civilian-based defense, and, five years later, when the parliament passed official legislation detailing defense and security policy, they became the first nation in the world to formally include nonviolent civilian-based defense among their defense strategies.

While Lithuanians maintain an armed military, they also build, train, and maintain the capacity of the populace to use nonviolent action, noncooperation, civil disobedience in the event of an invasion or occupation of another nation, or the usurpation of power by a coup or internal power-grab. To prepare the citizenry, one national institution trains all civil servants in particular policies of nonviolent resistance within the framework of defending the public offices or administration offices. Another institution works closely with churches, schools, and society to prepare the populace to resist and non-cooperate if necessary. In addition to these on-going trainings, a few years ago, when the Lithuanians were growing concerned about Russian aggression along their border, the Lithuanian government issued a nationwide pamphlet on how to use nonviolent resistance in the event of an invasion.

One researcher wrote, “With the preparation of a civilian-based defense policy, Lithuanians are examining how to make their country ‘politically indigestible.’  In the event of an attack, concentrated and coordinated forms of mass civilian resistance will be brought to bear on the attackers.”

Civilian-based defense draws upon many historic examples of nonviolent struggles, including from Norway and Denmark’s resistance to Nazi occupation. History provides basic concepts on how to undermine and thwart an oppressor or occupation government. By developing these ideas and training the Lithuanian population in the ability to nonviolently incapacitate any would-be occupying power, Lithuania is creating a deterrence to potential invaders. This is the basis of all military defense strategy: to show that one’s nation has the necessary force to rout out or cause major problems for anyone foolish enough to invade or attack.

On top of this, Lithuania has drawn up an agreement with Latvia and Estonia (two other Baltic states that also won their independence from the Soviet Union through the use of nonviolent struggle) to cooperate trans-nationally with forms of civil resistance to protect the rights and sovereignty of each of the three states.

Many questions remain for the Lithuanians about defense and strategy, especially around how/when to use nonviolent civil resistance in relation to their armed forces or NATO forces. But, their work in advancing the theory and practice of civil resistance is critical as we all seek a path toward a global culture of peace and active nonviolence. Their bold experiment offers an example to all other nations (including our own) about how to achieve one of the primary stated goals of the military – defense of the nation – with nonviolent methods. In Lithuania, the official policy for implementing nonviolent civilian-based defense is when the military has been conquered or forced to surrender by an invading army. In the event that the country becomes occupied, it is up to the people, wielding nonviolent action, to defend and protect the nation. Yet, it begs the question, “If nonviolence works as a last resort . . . why wouldn’t it work as a first?”

Learn more about Lithuania’s Civilian Based Defense Strategy here.   
Learn more about Civilian Based Defense here.





















About GlenAnderson 1515 Articles
Since the late 1960s Glen Anderson has devoted his life to working as a volunteer for peace, nonviolence, social justice, and progressive political issues. He has worked through many existing organizations and started several. Over the years he has worked especially for such wide-ranging goals as making peace with Vietnam, eliminating nuclear weapons, converting from a military economy to a peacetime economy, abolishing the death penalty, promoting nonviolence at all levels throughout society, and helping people organize and strategize for grassroots movements to solve many kinds of problems. He writes, speaks, and conducts training workshops on a wide variety of topics. Since 1987 he has produced and hosted a one-hour cable TV interview program on many kinds of issues. Since 2017 he has blogged at He lives in Lacey near Olympia WA. You can reach him at (360) 491-9093