Ethos, Praxis and Telos: Some Thoughts and Prayers about Nonviolence

While I happen to think that active nonviolence is a really good idea, one that the world sorely needs, it isn't just a good idea. It is a way of being, a way of behaving, both the destination and the journey. Said differently, it is an ethos, a praxis and a telos all in one.

It is an ethos, a way of seeing and perceiving that has specific principles and philosophical foundation. 

The adherent of nonviolence sees that violence leads only to more violence, and carries with her a deeper conviction for peace and the transforming of human relationships. She is compassionate and caring, but not naive. The way of seeing is built on the dignity of persons, a value for life of many forms, an awareness of our connectedness and a belief in possibilities greater than ourselves.


Nonviolence is strategic work. It takes attentiveness to reality and circumstances and creativity for how to be justly present in the midst of patterns of domination and submission. It requires the individual to be transformed and in action. Transformation in the ways of peace and love happen when a person or people ignite empower many in this way of being, and this doesn't happen automatically. It's been said that love is a verb. I might say it this way: Love is the noun the substance, and nonviolence is the verb, the action on which it stands.


Peace is the path and peace is the end. Not a pseudo-peace that is merely image-crafted or hitting the pause-button on conflict, but the thriving of individuals and the collective, a peace made both internally and externally. The "agape" love that Jesus talks about is constantly being resisted by our own fear and that is currently magnified on the national and global scale. Those that hear Jesus' invitation to nonviolence see beyond this resistance to a world where proactive, other-focused love transcends races, tribes, nations, religions and all other constructed lines of division.

This is at best a brief summation, but it's a start. 

I'm by no means an expert here. I'm a learner like you, seeking to embody this path not only with my conscious mind, but with my daily actions. I see that making this distinction alone doesn't empower myself or others to get into action, and that's really what I'm after. In making these distinctions, I'm acknowledging that talk is cheap, that my presentation of ideas can fall short of the substance that is required. I love sharing these ideas. They feed my soul, they stir my spirit. But love necessitates action, and my possibility is to be poised, present and ready that I can respond as needed. 

From the internal to the interpersonal to the global, we can all be transformed and co-create transformation. 

I'll close with my prayers for me.

God, lead me into your ways of being. Jesus, I hear the invitation into your way, the way of nonviolent love—and I accept your invitation. I'm acutely aware of how my preoccupation with thoughts has kept me from the present moment, from simply being love, and I now choose to integrate both word and deed, thought and action. I commit to being open to the Spirit in the moment. I commit to being present to my stories, my rackets, my fear and my complacency. At this moment, I see how I'm tempted either to hide and let myself off the hook, because I'm not "the expert," or to find artifices to make me look really smart. Instead, I commit to being authentic. I commit to letting my light shine. I've counted the cost, and I count it as lost. Ready or not, I choose the path before me and will walk it with you, my God. In living the questions, I choose you as my answer. Let's do this thing. Amen.

Nonviolence is more than a great idea. It's an ethos, praxis and telos in one, and one that I'm committed to. 
Benjamin FaderComment