Today as we celebrate the birthday and historic legacy of civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King, Jr., I find that his words are just as powerful and relevant today as they were when he initially spoke them decades ago.
King understood that in the face of racism and discrimination that the first response among most people is to want to protest and fight back in a destructive way. It’s pretty much human nature for someone who is being abused to want to push back and it would have been easy for King to talk of using angry, armed rebellion to gain ground for African Americans being denied jobs and social respect because of the color of their skin.
But that was not King’s powerful message. There is always a place for protest but King was dedicated to leading peaceful protests such as the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, one of the largest political rallies held in the United States for human rights. The United States has vast and deep resources to reduce poverty, racism and militarism and political organizing and non-violent civil disobedience were King’s chosen methods for gaining social progress.
When you continue to be hurt and disappointed by life it is easy to be angry and to hold on tight to those fiery feelings. But what kind of life does anger give you? A very narrow one, I think, a life of continually seeking retribution against others and never truly being happy with your life.
King was not a man to be taken advantage of but he also was not a man to advocate for social change by using violence.
King’s wise words above remind us that to release the anger, to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge is to move forward with a life of positive actions and change.