You shall not kill

Tolstoy Center for Nonviolence

Nov 17, 2020

There is a certain crime that is embedded in the midst of our everyday lives. In a single moment, that crime devalues all our good deeds and initiatives. That crime: our reliance on murder and bodily harm to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and our homeland.

But when people don’t wish to depend upon and participate in the killing of other people for the protection of their own lives, territories, and public safety, they search for and find other methods of protection. Some of them are listed below.

How to stop needing and participating in killing and maiming people

Humility and kindness

Obviously, “humility” in this article is understood, not as reconciliation with evil, but the ability to relate to every person with peace, independent of that person’s words and actions. Humility stops the spread of evil, not allowing it to pass from one person to another. It is a skill, i.e., it can be developed with the correct approach and due diligence. However, it is commonly seen, not as a personality trait, but rather as a process of becoming, with both ups and downs.

  1. Humility in the Christian sense. It is the result of a lifestyle based on love for God through Christ, and care for loved ones. The humble Christian believes in eternal life (from which words and actions come) and does not expect to be rewarded in this earthly life. The theory is learned through the Gospel and practiced by prayer, discipline, and work. Deeper faith, by all accounts, seems to promote greater humility — however, even the first steps towards Christ can be fruitful:
    • Accepting Him as teacher
    • Relying on Him as prophet
    • Believing in Him as the Son of God and the Saviour
  2. Jesus and the army: Is there a clear prohibition against murder in the Gospel? Where and when did Jesus allow for the killing of people?
  3. Humility in the everyday sense. This means meeting people with peace, not responding to evil with evil, not being irritated or embittered, not limiting kindness to a narrow channel (directed only toward members of the family/clan/collective). This humility, if it isn’t a strong natural characteristic, can be achieved by various methods or a combination of them:
    • Psychological techniques and practices (managing emotions, self-control, conflict free communication)
    • Changing the circle of communication, limiting or increasing the amount of contacts (depending on the type of person and situation)
    • Independence and autonomous lifestyle, see Lifestyle
    • Neurological therapy, psychotherapy, psychological correction
  4. Pitirim A. Sorokin: The Ways and Power of Love. Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation, 1954

Some additional techniques that produce a state of rest can be found in several of the practices of South-East Asian religions (Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism): meditation, yoga, etc. In order to vent excessive aggression, you can successfully use all kinds of non-competitive physical activities (from training and strengthening your health to any creative physical work).

Methods of protection

Methods of protection against physical aggression can be divided into two types of results:

  1. Weakening of the attacker — this gives a quick result, but has negative long-term consequences (for example: knives and firearms)
  2. Strengthening of the attacker — the result is slower, but has positive long-term consequences (for example: humility, enlightenment, education)

The following actions are of the first type: they weaken the attacker both physically and mentally. But, at the same time, to the extent possible, they aim to do this carefully to reduce or avoid any harm to the attacker’s life and health.

Individual means of protection

  • Person-to-person combat focused on defense (aikido, sambo [not the combat version], etc.)
  • Personal self-defense equipment (pepper, gas, light, sound, etc.)
  • Technical methods: webcams, beacons/trackers, any type of alarm (people/animals, house/yard/office, road/areas), repellents (acoustics etc.)
  • Passive protection installations (locks, fences, obstacles, etc.)
  • Signs, postings, other methods of public notification
  • Relocation/emigration

Collective methods of protection

The list of research, development and samples of non-lethal methods of protection is detailed in the reports:

  1. European Working Group on Non-Lethal Weapons (1998 - н.в.)
  2. Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project (1997-2007)

They are not peace initiatives and nonviolent protection in the full sense of the phrase as, in a significant number of cases,

  • They are designed as weapons, not as methods of defense — therefore they can also be used to attack
  • They are not guaranteed to be non-traumatic or non-fatal
  • The main customer and sponsor is the state (it is impossible to control their use; they can and will be used for repression)
  • They are developed in the same places and with the same specialists as traditional types of weapon (as with lethal weapons, they presuppose lack of trust)

Additionally — passive protection (shelters and infrastructures). Separately — places of detention, see Education and upbringing.

Education and upbringing

Attention Among all the important features of any peace education process, the most important is the formation of students’ feelings that the official use of violence and violent defense is unacceptable and to be rejected. “Peaceful learning” that allows legalized violence actually lies to and disorients students instead of forming a concrete peaceful worldview.

Pedagogical activities (including methodology, training and the process itself), aims at creating peaceful coexistence. These activities can be applied with the following two large age groups, bearing in mind the specific needs and conditions of each group. They can also be used within the third group below — people identified as having behavioral problems.

  1. Children. Forms of training:
    • The least effective — one-time lessons (lessons on kindness, forgiveness, tolerance, gratitude)
    • Effective — regular practical lessons with a teacher-psychologist (to train empathy, to help with irritability, to develop skills for peacefully resolving controversial situations)
    • The most effective — complex programmes/methods/systems (Montessori pedagogy, Scandinavian education system, etc.)
  2. Youths and adults. Format of education — courses/training/workshops/seminars:
  3. Potential antisocial people. Upbringing and remediation of behaviour (Nils Christie ).

A long-term trend worth encouraging would involve working with former members of the armed forces and police forces, aiming toward helping them adapt to a nonviolent orientation, including their peaceful re-integration and direct participation in helping those affected by their actions.

Laws and rights

Not one of the initiatives listed below is “nonviolent” in the full sense of the word, since any right requires power to protect itself. Nonetheless, as the first steps:

  1. Application of relevant forms of taxation and tax resistance:
    • "tax sovereignty" — is the combination of Voluntary taxation and Tax choice mechanisms, presupposing the ability to choose specific taxes (or their categories) for payment, up to the point of complete refusal. The amount of government services would correlate to the amount of tax revenues received and the categories specified. This allows for the exclusion of the armed authorities and related parts of industry, science, and education (and also other unacceptable types of expenses), from a particular person’s taxes.
    • Refusal to provide the armed authorities within the current taxation system (assuming it is possible to clearly distinguish this part of the government budget); see Conscientious objection to military taxation
    • Creation of a peace tax fund from the taxpayers’ funds, see above
    • The realisation of a peaceful tax mechanism by analogy with ACS (Alternative Civil Service); see Peace Tax
  2. Limitations on police and other forces regulating or restricting aspects of their duties, equipment, and weapons. Examples of restrictions: there are 18 countries in the world where police do not carry weapons (including Norway, Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand), see also Costa Rica: 70 years without an army.
  3. Freedom to renounce citizenship acquired at birth. Examples of successful (USA) and unsuccessful (Russia) cases. Renunciation of citizenship without the guarantee of another citizenship is not allowed if the state has signed or guided by the European Convention on Citizenship and/or the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
  4. Protection of rights of conscientious objectors from military service on the grounds of faith and conscience, with the help of local legal agencies and specialized not-for-profit organizations (if there is a relevant justice system in the state) or political representatives, activities, and press (in the absence of such a system).

And also the gradual resistance to the development of institutions whose growth weakens the spiritual closeness between people and blocks their spiritual unity:

  • Rethinking the institution of democracy as a form of social structure, generating resentment, aggravation (all the way up to anger), and rebellion in the minority who are forced to obey the decision of the majority.
  • Rethinking the institution of authority, whose current power includes directing people to their death. Their power must be reduced to administrative-economic functions, and their decisions should take the form of recommendations, not demands.
  • Rethinking the institution of rights, representing an effort to replace love with laws.

The tendencies indicated above can only be observed on the scale of small communities formed under the influence of faith, ideas or in a natural way, see Lifestyle.


Sustainable 21st century educational resources to build a nonviolence-oriented awareness, based on teaching the history of nonviolence (the beginning stage of the process) and its current directions (the main stage):

  • Literature, opening up new names and approaches to nonviolence (books and publications of Center for Global Nonkilling , Beyond violence etc.)
  • Regular press and Internet publications (public organisation bulletins, knowledge bases: Tolstoy Center etc.)
  • Video and audio content (TV shows, Youtube, podcasts)

Economy and business

Finding alternative employment for active men (the demographic group often attracted to military and police services). Such employment should address:

  • the need for physical expression
  • the need for external affirmations of respect/recognition and self-worth
  • the need for leadership and/or power
  • the tendency of this population to join groups, create hierarchies, and obey orders

Examples of employment:

  1. civil defense (no bloodshed, see Methods of protection)
  2. repair-construction teams (restoring and maintaining residential and non-residential housing, infrastructure etc.)
  3. organizations specializing in civic engagement (emergency prevention and response, disaster aid)
  4. charitable organizations working with children, ill, and disabled people, the elderly
  5. development and investigating (resources, territories etc.)
  6. manual labor, etc.

Conflict resolution

Peacemaking deals with conflicts that, as a rule, have very ignoble reasons at their heart: envy, vanity, a feeling of national superiority, etc. Therefore, a key skill of a peacemaker will be not to succumb to anger and despair when in daily contact with human vices and weaknesses.

At the same, even experienced peacemakers cannot ensure that with their mediation (and sometimes even just with their presence) they will not create, provoke, or lay the foundation for possibly even more serious troubles. Therefore, in the real world, peacemaking often comes down to the resolution of conflicts “here and now” without a guarantee of their not happening again.

  1. Practical conflictology. The development and application of verbal and physical interaction skills (sources: life experience, talent, specialized training):
    • Further development of the gift of humility (see Humility and kindness) into the skill of peaceful resolution of domestic arguments, claims, and disputes
    • Conflictology for groups (psychologists/conflictologists/facilitators/mediators; an example of training: Deep Democracy Institute )
    • Global conflict management:
  2. Remote intervention. The availability and use of non-verbal/metaphysical effects (or the deflection of negative effects) from a distance (assuming these nonlocal practices are known).
  3. Spiritual help. The manifestation of any influence that results from spiritual help and support from a higher power, including the resolution of conflicts without the participation of the parties involved.


Attention Be careful with any social group or people who put their own beliefs, views and ideals above kindness and charity; who adhere to a limited, narrow concept of kindness (limited to members of the collective) and who are extremely media-oriented or, on the contrary, are deliberately isolated.

Communities built on the principles of autonomy, nonviolence, discipline/moderation/unpretentiousness and avoidance of temptation:

  1. Spiritual and practical direction: Tolstoyans, community of Adin Ballou , etc.
  2. The path of religion and discipleship: Amish, Mennonites, Dukhobors, Quakers, etc.
  3. Residents of territories and settlements with an integrated peaceful lifestyle (and corresponding worldview), see examples from history
  4. Other communities, groups, family, individuals


These institutions have some apparent features of nonviolence, but are not included in this list of nonviolent methods (click to expand):

Legal protectionThe protection of citizens’ rights in any state is based on coercive methods. “Civilized” court decisions are mostly enforced by the prospect of punishment for disobedience and not out of trust and respect between people.
Anti-war initiatives (pacifism)The actual problem of providing security (as carried out now through legal threats, maiming and murder of people by the army, police, secret services, justice system etc.) is disregarded. Anti-war initiatives are predominantly symbolic in nature and do not prevent murders either locally or systemically, and they rarely lead to the emergence of specific peacekeeping programs and options.
Nonviolent resistanceIt is extremely rare that nonviolent resistance is linked to the desire to defend oneself by nonlethal means. It usually makes its appearance, not when someone else is in danger from violence, but when things look bad for the resister.
International and national politicsA large number of cases in this category require qualified assessment and analysis of consequences in order to consider them genuine “nonviolent solutions.” More often than not, these cases involve the use or threat of force.
Medical and humanitarian missionsThis category involves the elimination of the consequences of conflicts, and not the causes of those conflicts (discussion of those causes may even be forbidden). Such missions require close cooperation with the armed forces, their training and deployment.