January 20, 2017 column
Inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr
Rev. Yme Woensdregt
Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. day in the USA It is an annual remembrance of the courage and conviction of a man who gave his life in service.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the nature of his non–violent approach to solving conflict as the USA has just inaugurated a new president. In my opinion, King appealed to the best in us; the incoming president, on the other hand, has appealed to the worst in us.
King is a hero of mine. He was a leader for civil rights, and called the nation to live with compassion, clarity and courage.
Above all, compassion was marked by the nonviolent nature of King’s hopeful activism. He opposed segregation and fought for the rights of all people, regardless of race or circumstance.
He had an absolute clarity about the moral nature of our actions, both at an institutional and a personal level. Every act we undertake comes out of a moral centre.
He exhibited a rare courage as he faced social inequities and injustice, and he embraced the possibilities of what he called “the beloved community”.
As we move into a new era, King’s character and leadership invites us to reflect more deeply about how our lives, communities and societies may move towards hope, equity and peace.
I offer here for your reflection several quotes by King. As we reflect on them, may they empower us to seek to be a community of courage. As we do so, may we live up to and into the most noble dreams of our callings.
Dare to Love. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Dare to Forgive. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Dare to Be Nonviolent. “We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”
Dare to See the Other. “Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”
Dare to Be Known. “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
Dare to Speak. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Dare to Act. “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well–being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
Dare to Seek Justice beyond Self Interest. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dare to Hope. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
Dare to Lead with Soul. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because our conscience tells us it is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr called us all to action. He called us to embark on a long journey, fraught with difficulty. “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Even so, he remained convinced until his dying day that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Therefore, “with patient and firm determination we will press on until every valley of despair is exalted to new peaks of hope, until every mountain of pride and irrationality is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of injustice are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of prejudice are transformed by the straightening process of bright–eyed wisdom.”