One Family’s Encounter with the Power of Active Nonviolence


[googlefont font=“Cormorant Infant” fontsize=”20″]Preview by Robert Ellsberg[/googlefont]

The Linns are a remarkable family, who have taught courses on healing, forgiveness and nonviolence in over 60 countries. Denny and Sheila are the authors of 23 books, which have sold over a million copies in English, and have been translated into more than 20 languages. Their new book, written with their young son John, is an inspiring overview of the amazing power of active nonviolence.

Linns book: Two Hads of Yes and NoMost of us, through school and mass media, are saturated with the history of violence—so much so that we are unfamiliar with an alternative history of successful nonviolent campaigns. In this book the Linns offer a captivating survey of stories ranging from Gandhi’s struggles in India, to resistance against Nazi occupation in Europe, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, popular uprisings against dictators in Chile and the Philippines, the U.S. civil rights movement, human rights movements in Latin America, and protests as recent as the campaigns by young people against gun violence and climate change.

While most people dismiss nonviolence as idealistic but ineffective, the reality, as the Linns point out and as they back up with remarkable new research and their own firsthand experience around the world, is that active nonviolent campaigns have been “working like crazy.” As they explain, the power of nonviolence rests on a deft harnessing of psychology and insight into human nature. The title of their book, The Two Hands of Yes and No, comes from author and activist Barbara Deming, who wrote that nonviolence gives us two hands upon an oppressor: “one hand taking from him what is not his due, the other slowly calming him as we do this.”

This principle not only applies to broad movements for peace and social change, it can also apply to daily life. That is part of this book’s special appeal. While these stories bear lessons for all readers, the Linns are particularly hopeful about reaching young people. One of the best features of the book is the testimony of John Linn, who describes what it was like to be raised with a consciousness of these stories, to meet many of the actual protagonists of nonviolent struggles, and how he has tried to live by these principles and to share them with his peers.
Some of the many endorsements for the book are:

  • From Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi: “My grandfather would be happy and proud of how the Linns have honored his legacy and carried on his work. This book is a must read for anyone who has any doubts about the efficacy of nonviolence.”
  • From Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries: “All of us need to be grateful for the clarity of this exceptional book. The Linns have presented a hugely accessible exploration of active nonviolence that will be the ‘go-to’ book for generations to come. The holiness of our current resistance needs this book.”

May this practical and inspiring book find a wide audience.

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