Surrender and Resistance are opposites. Resistance is typically violent; surrender is non-violent. But Gandhi and, following him, Martin Luther King Jr. combined the two ideas into the 3rd Alternative of nonviolent resistance, a concept that has led to the freedom of whole peoples.
Even when he was a college student, King’s teachers noticed his ability to do synergistic thinking. “Regardless of subject matter, King never tired of moving from a one-sided thesis to an also one-sided antithesis and finally to a more coherent synthesis beyond both,” one of them recalls. King was an unusually effective 3rd Alternative thinker in conflict situations. In a room where people were near to “crawling across the table and slitting each other’s throats, King would just sit there until it would come to an end.” While some saw his passivity as a flaw, others could see that his habit of silent listening was part of his creative thinking process. A friend of his said, “ ‘He had a remarkable facility for sitting through long, contentious meetings and then summarizing what everybody had said and synthesizing that’ into a conclusion that appealed to all.” He would often challenge somebody to “express as radical a view as possible and somebody to express as conservative a view as possible.” It was almost like a game. Empathic listening and synergistic solutions went hand in hand for Martin Luther King Jr. Synergy can come from deliberately combining forces or leveraging opposing forces. But often the most interesting 3rd Alternatives happen when people make odd, unexpected connections.