Honor Martin Luther King and 6 Principles of Nonviolence 

Most people we talk to are overwhelmed by the violence and hateful rhetoric today. Maybe that is why so many are drawn to celebrating what Martin Luther King stood for. It is hard to imagine how he maintained his principles of nonviolence and how this can be supported today, including within the workplace. 

We have researched incivility in the workplace and know that incivility is both detrimental and costly. The research on the cost of incivility by Christine Porath and Christine Pearson is well known. They demonstrated the cost to organizations, and it can be $millions per year. Our research found additional cost to employee well-being and productivity, plus, incivility is the main reason many employees and managers quit their jobs – which has a significant cost to the organization.  

Rabbi Marc Gellman publishes the ‘godsquad’ in the News and Observer on Sundays. It is usually quite insightful. On January 14th, Rabbi Gellman wrote about Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and honored him as a prophet and the last great hero of our time. 

The Rabbi wrote that, “the greatest support for nonviolence comes from the eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism’s doctrine of ahimsa embraced by Gandhi and King as a foundational spiritual and political value. As the Buddha taught, ‘The only way that wrath can be conquered is by nonwrath.’ There is also a proof text in the Christian Testament in the famous passage about turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-48.” 

Accepting nonviolence is complicated. Goals we set for ourselves seem, “…impossible to fulfill on a large scale because of the realities of our need to defend ourselves with force.”  However, the Rabbi offers hope that we can grow to be able to maintain nonviolence. 

Rabbi Gellman summarized six main principles that King developed:

  • Principle one: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
  • Principle two: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. 
  • 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. 

Here are a few little known and/or not often mentioned facts about Dr. King:

  • Time First Black Person To Be Named Man of the Year (1963)
  • Improvised Part Of His “I Have A Dream Speech.” (The words were added during the adress, in Washington titled, “Normalcy Never Again.” See Below)
  • An Assassination Attempt 10 Years Before His Death Affirmed His Faith in Nonviolence
  • The Only Non-President Whose Birthday Is A National Holiday
  • Started College At 15. (Dr. King Skipped Grades 9-12)
  • Dr. King Was Reluctant To Be A Minister
  • He Embraced Mahatma Gandhi’s Teachings on Nonviolence
  • Dr. King Was Arrested 30 Times
  • Dr. King’s Family Paid the Hospital Bill For Julia Roberts’ Birth. (Julia’s family opened their theater school to the King children per requested of Coretta Scott King)
  • Youngest Person Awarded The Noble Peace Prize In 1964
  • Named After Protestant Reformer Martin Luther King.  (Martin Luther’s Reformations Challenged The Catholic Church)

The speech Dr. King gave during the March on Washington in 1963 after he ignored his prepared notes. The address was titled, Normalcy Never Again.  

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.
It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal.”

Adapted from the TIME article by Nik Pople published in the News and Observer on January 15, 2024

Now more than ever corporations can make a commitment and begin by addressing issues of incivility and injustices internally to create a more collaborative and supportive work environment, then expand from there. Here are a few resources:

King Center website

Center for Nonviolent Communication

The Nonviolence Project Foundation

Photo by Tom Mossholder@unsplash

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