Ladies and gentleman…he’s the man whose face I’d tattoo on my bicep (if that were my kind of thing).
He’s the man who I’d name my first son after (if I happened to like the name Martin).
And he’s the man whose balls I would keep in a glass jar on top of a shrine in my living room (if I were to take the “balls” theme of this blog way too literally).
He is: Martin Luther King Jr.!
Everything about MLK blows me away, but honestly, this sentiment is relatively new. It used to be that I simply admired him for what he did for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. (And let’s be real– it was also nice of him to get us out of school every third Monday in January.) But MLK officially became my hero last year as I studied peace, war, and social change through carefully planned and brilliantly executed forms of nonviolent resistance.
Today I’ll be discussing how average Joe’s like us can apply the philosophy of nonviolence to every-day life. Specifically, how can we apply it to conflict resolution with those whom we dislike, or with those who hate us?
Now just to be clear: I’m exploring this topic not because I’ve got all the answers, but because I’m actually pretty bad at practicing the principles of nonviolence… and I want to get better. In the face of insult, confrontation and aggression, I usually do one of the following things:
- minimize others’ offenses and blame myself
- stay silent, fearful that I’ll invite the other person’s anger or rejection
- cry and feel guilty for getting angry or upset in the first place
These are cowardly and passive responses to conflict, and the philosophy of nonviolence is anything but cowardly and passive.
Occasionally my words inflict emotional damage on others. I’m also guilty of putting the “ass” in passive aggressive at times. While none of this is a drop kick to the neck or anything, they are certainly violent at their core.
So if nonviolence isn’t just about the absence of drop kicks or about the presence of fear and passivity, what is it?
I’ll let my hero tell you in his own words. Check out this clip of MLK on the show Meet The Press. Between the 3-min., 30-second mark and the 7-min. mark he gives us the basics:
Before responding to someone’s crime, offense, or insult, my hope is that I’ll remember the following acronym: WWMLKJD — What would Martin Luther King Jr. do? To determine whether or not my response to any given conflict falls in line with my hero and mentor’s philosophy, I must examine 3 very important factors:
- Motivation: Is compassion my true motivation?
- Method: Do my methods of confrontation and correction contradict any of my core values or beliefs?
- Result: Will my response cause desirable long-term effects?
At first glance, the list above seems pretty simple and easy to follow. But the most common error that people make is prematurely choosing a method while (1) automatically assuming that their motivations and intentions are good; and (2) failing to consider all possible long-term results of their chosen method.
I’m currently in my 30′s now. And although I’m not yet who I want to be on an emotional or spiritual level, I’ve accomplished two major tasks of young adulthood — I know what my weaknesses are and I’ve picked out my mentors. But will I be brave enough to put my mentors’ ideas into practice?
I guess that’s the key word — practice. It’s what the rest of my adulthood will be about: Practice, over and over again, even after I fail, even when I’m too tired, and even if my opponents laugh at me.
A brave life is not defined by one courageous act. It’s about the mindful practice of integrity. All of the time. In every way. With everyone. And for me, it starts with asking WWMLKJD?
Who is your hero or mentor? Can you recall an incident when he or she nailed all 3 categories (motivation, method, result) in the face of conflict?