Though best known as a civil rights leader and the father of American nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered profound insight into many areas of society, culture and the human condition.
And we should all be listening.
Here's a collection of quotes from the pastor, humanitarian, civil rights leader, brilliant writer, rhetorician and hero.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
One of the amazing aspects of Mr. King's teachings was his determined love for his "enemies." He understood that hatred consumes the serenity, happiness and efficiency of the hater while usually having no effect on his or her target. Mr. King reminds us that even when we are wronged, harboring hatred only makes our own lives miserable, and action fueled by hate is ineffective at best. More likely, it increases the problem and results in more violence and negativity.
He elaborated on the "corrosive" nature of hatred when he said:
When consumed with hatred, a person can only see through the filter of their own rage. Everything is tainted by the hue of their anger. This creates a dark and negative life.
As a Christian pastor, Mr. King lived Jesus' famous words "Love your enemies." He often spoke of racism as also destructive to the white racists who were consumed with hatred and misunderstanding toward blacks. Mr. King did not hate "his enemies." Rather, he loved them as he knew they were also suffering.
Though he also made very clear that "evil" must be faced squarely, and protested courageously:
Though a widely respected scholar, writer, pastor and human rights leader, Mr. King understood the importance of all forms of labor, those at the "bottom" and the "top." He taught that dignity does not come from the nature of the job, but rather the way the job is done. In this way, Mr. King reminds us that nobody is "above" anybody else, and all work is "noble" work if it is done with heart, attention and respect.
A true humanitarian, Mr. King understood that "things" should never overshadow our focus on people. He also knew that there was great power in "the people," and that together we can conquer destructive societal forces that may seem insurmountable.
In a time when it seems like education is becoming more and more formulaic and one-dimensional, Mr. King's words resonate perhaps more strongly than ever. A real education empowers the student to think for herself, to think critically and analytically, to question everything, determine what's right and wrong, and act accordingly.
Mr. King was a man of action. He knew he must move his feet and not just his mouth if he was going to accomplish anything. King was an example of brave, timely action taken in the name of what's right and necessary.
There are not many true heroes for our kids. I believe Mr. King is one of them.
This month, as we celebrate the birth of Mr. King, read his story to your kids, share with them his thoughts, let them know what he accomplished through nonviolent, compassionate means.
Because, as King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."