Interview with Rev. James Lawson
QUESTION 40
INTERVIEWER:

OK, LET'S CUT. OK, SO CAN YOU GIVE ME, AS BRIEFLY AS YOU CAN, HOW THE PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERSTANDING OF NONVIOLENCE GAVE PEOPLE POWER TO UNDERTAKE THESE THINGS?

Rev. James Lawson:

Well, nonviolence in many ways was an effort to help people see that they were of infinite worth and dignity. That their very life in fact was a center of the life of the universe, that the full power of what life is all about is located in every single human being. And no matter how tortuous that person's life is, they still have certain power if they're willing to exercise it and cultivate it and use it. And it may be risky, but it can be done. So the whole notion of nonviolence, philosophically is that you are a person of infinite worth and as such you can exercise influence all around you. That in fact you do this in a variety of ways that maybe you don't think about. For an example, when you are accosted with an angry word, most of the time you don't necessarily become angry at the same moment and try to retaliate with anger. You may turn a soft word. You will get angry only in certain kinds of experiences and not each time. Now, nonviolence suggests to you that you are at your best when you determine that in a hostile situation, that you can defuse and change that situation by continuing not only to respect your own life, but to respect the person who's doing the accosting.