Written by Curtis Renee
The summer going into my senior year of high school I was introduced to Kingian nonviolence, as a part of a youth summer enrichment program/job. I remember learning the principles and feeling like “ This can’t be real,” “ Only certain people can really be nonviolent.” I had no idea what it meant to avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. How do you avoid violence when it is all around you?
Reading the words “ Avoid internal violence,” it is easy to think “I need to remove myself from violence.” As a youth, that is what I thought and it was so confusing; how could I possibly remove myself from the violence that was happening all around me? When we sit with the whole Kingian Philosophy, we learn that being nonviolent (without the hyphen), is not simply the opposite of violence, not only the absence of physical violence. If this principle is not asking us to remove ourselves from violence, then what is it asking? Kingian Nonviolence is asking us to be in the practice of love, joy, cheer, caring, happiness, rejoice, harmony, and creativity. When we are in the practice of these things, it pours into our resilience, dignity, humanity, and morality. What is present internally creates the exterior.
As a youth I saw this principle as an opportunity for others to disrespect me, to be hurt, and humiliated; an opportunity for my dignity to be diminished or taken away. Over the years I have realized this is an opportunity to love myself and allow that love to extend beyond myself; to not only avoid both internal and external violence, for my practice of love to shift how I address conflict, harm, and violence.