“Not by reason alone”–Daily Metta

February 12

the-mahatma-mohandas-gandhi“The conviction has been growing upon me that things of fundamental importance to the people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering.”

–Gandhi (Young India, 3-19-1931)


Gandhi does not hide the very unpopular fact that when one decides to undertake nonviolent discipline, one is preparing to take on suffering, without offering it in return. This is very different from passively enduring violence. The lunch-counter sit-ins for integration in the American South is a good example of this principle. More than simply reasoning with people that lunch counters should be integrated, they made a commitment to nonviolence, got trained by strategic movement thinkers, prepared themselves for the inevitable violent push-back, and sat down at those counters.

David Hartsough recalls such an experience in his book, Waging Peace. At one lunch counter in Virginia, a man pulled him off his stool, held a knife at his throat, and told him to get out of there or else. Hartsough, who was as prepared as he was going to be at that moment, looked him in the eye and said, “Brother, you do what you feel is right; and I will try to love you anyway.” The man’s hand shook as he dropped his knife and walked out. Hartsough’s willingness to accept suffering was more powerful than the threat of violence. This is the kind of suffering to which Gandhi refers–not enduring injustice, but willingly taking on the suffering the situation may entail in order to transform it. By implication, he is telling us that we can hone this powerful capacity to even greater degrees.

Experiment in Nonviolence:

Rid ourselves of the idea that because we are nonviolent we should be immune from suffering; at the same time, try to understand how “unearned suffering is redemptive” (MLK): how it goes deeper than reason in persuading change in others.


Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.