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19. Core 6 – Willingness to Suffer

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Be willing to take on voluntary redemptive suffering (not involuntary suffering)

A Gandhi Vow

“I will take on myself without complaint any suffering that comes from doing justice; and I will do what I can to help my adversary avoid any suffering from our confrontation.”


This “suffering without complaint” idea was not easily accepted by my LGBTQ friends and allies. “We’ve suffered long enough,” they would say. “We’re not about to take on more suffering let alone more suffering without complaint.” Gandhi’s call to voluntary redemptive suffering is widely misunderstood. Accepting suffering without retaliation or complaint does not mean we accept the involuntary suffering that comes from discrimination and intolerance. Gandhi calls us to suffer voluntarily on behalf of justice in order that involuntary suffering (injustice) might end.


In Gandhi’s India the British occupiers caused involuntary suffering with their demands on the Indian people. Then Gandhi appeared on the scene with his call to voluntary suffering without complaint as a powerful form of resistance to British demands. Gandhi and his followers did not complain when the British taxed Indian salt. But they didn’t cave in to British demands either. They refused to pay the tax and walked hundreds of miles to make salt. They walked bravely into police barricades guarding Indian salt mines. They were beaten, arrested and imprisoned and all without complaint. The Parliament and the people of England watched courageous Indians facing British brutality without complaining about their violent treatment let alone resorting to violent response.


Eventually, the British were shamed into setting India free.


African Americans suffered involuntarily at the hands of Southern sheriffs and the KKK but it was their voluntary suffering on behalf of justice that helped end segregation. They proved their commitment to the cause by suffering without complaint physical violence, arrest and imprisonment The minds and hearts of American people were changed as they watched African Americans accept suffering without complaint as a way to protest and eventually end segregation.

How do you feel about taking on suffering without complaint?

How do you feel about helping your adversary avoid suffering?


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