As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s life today and his message of peace, love, and healing, it reminds us all that one person can make a huge difference in our world. I’ve been doing significant research leading up to today. For many years, I’ve been given an opportunity to know Dr. King through many of his closest advisers, family, and friends.
This year I was thinking about how what he accomplished for so many people in such a short period of time was incredible. During my research I found a book called He had a Dream; Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. As a former photojournalist, the book moved me tears. The images of Dr. King and his family were heartbreaking. You could see how much he cared for his family and friends.
I then read, in Dr. King’s words, about the night his opponents tried to kill his family in their home. I was almost paralyzed as I read this intimate description of what happened. You could feel his love and fear coming through the words he wrote describing what happened this terrible night.
The only thing that shook me up more were the other images in this book of the people who opposed Dr. King and his movement. My mother was multi-racial child in the 1930s in the Midwest. I never quite understood her fear or the hatred she and our family experienced because of my grandmother’s choice to fall in love with a man of color.
These photos of the bigotry and haters of this era almost looked inhuman in nature. Generations of pure hate and fear at the same time. I wondered how Dr. Martin Luther King could show compassion and love for the people who so clearly wanted him and all the people of his race dead simply because of the color of their skin.
I remember being lectured by a client about why my leadership team didn’t have more diversity on it. Why did I not promote more people of color to a more substantial position. Why? I’ve only lost my temper twice in my professional life. Both times I’m not proud of my actions. I asked her if I was not black enough to meet her expectations of diversity.
In my research on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I read he found great peace in the writings of St. Paul talking about the early Christian faith and his fight to bring outsiders into the early Christian movement. Dr. King loved writing to different congregations and people around the country to remind them this was the right battle at the right time for the right reason.
I believe Dr. King found solace in an apostle who had more than his own share of beatings for their beliefs about inclusion. But there was something more significant to their connection. They both understood that the only way to win was not to defeat the enemy, but to make them friends. As we see today and throughout history its not about who has the most power but whose cause is right.
We all must embrace Dr King’s dream of equality. One that saw their enemies’ anger and responded with compassion. Saw their hate and offered love. Saw their lives as being as important as their own followers. Understood that the only way to win this eternal battle was by loving our enemy as ourselves. As you prepare for today’s day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, take time to read one of his favorite verses in the Bible; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
- Love is patient.
- Love is kind.
- It does not envy.
- It does not boast.
- It is not proud.
- It does not dishonor others.
- It is not self-seeking.
- It is not easily angered.
- It keeps no record of wrong.
- Love does not delight in evil.
- But rejoices with the truth.
- It always protects.
- Always trusts.
- Always hopes.
- Always perseveres.
You cannot defeat hate with more hate, but only through loving one another. Go in peace knowing you are on the side of love.
Want to learn more about Dr. King as a leader? You might enjoy Create a Great Leadership Team Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
See you next week.