Written by Abigail Davidson.
Today is the day we honor the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his work toward equality and justice - both in his life and in his death.
Right now, we are at a pivotal point in our country’s story. We are experiencing division on a level we may not have experienced in a long time. We all are feeling a great amount of fear of the future, and fear of our neighbor. And with news headlines and social media updates constantly at our fingertips and before our eyes, the injustices of the world can be overwhelming to say the least.
So it seems only appropriate that we take a few minutes and consider the work of the late Dr. King, and apply what he taught through his actions to our lives today.
#1. Sometimes seeking justice means going against the grain.
Today, Martin Luther King Jr. is highly regarded (by most) as one of our country’s great leaders, and as a revolutionary we can all look up to. But back in 1963, he was not so widely respected. Dr. King had to go against the status quo, disregarding the current accepted social norms and what others might think of him in order to fight for what he believed was right.
On your journey toward justice, peace, equality, or whatever you dream is, not everyone is going to be on board. People might disagree with you and they may disrespect you. Relationships may change and you might feel like an outsider at times. But just like Dr. King, don’t be afraid to push forward, to challenge the way things are, and have the audacity to believe in a different world.
#2. Embrace fear.
Dr. King was a human being, and he knew there were risks involved in his work with the Civil Rights Movement. He was thrown into jail, he was ridiculed, and of course, his life was eventually taken from him.
But he did not let these risks stop him from pursuing his dream for a brighter future. Fear is a powerful thing. It has the ability to either keep us from doing what we were meant to do, or push us to become the person we were meant to become.
#3. Always remember your ‘why.'
For MLK Jr., it was equality for all human beings. What is the thing you are most passionate about? What injustice in the world speaks most loudly to your heart? What gets your blood pumping and heart racing? What is your why?
Why do you do the work you’re doing? Why do you get up in the morning? Some things are worth fighting for. Maybe some things are worth even losing your life for. So whatever happens, don’t lose sight of that. When the going gets rough, go back to your ‘why’ and let it continue to fuel you.
#4. It is possible to build a better tomorrow.
Martin Luther King Jr. did not sugar coat things. He was not afraid to call reality what it was. He referenced Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation saying, "But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
But although Dr. King was not afraid to accept reality, he wasn’t afraid to change it either. The truth is, we hold more power in our hands than we think we do. Each of us has the ability to work to change ourselves, to learn from and love the people around us, and to fight for a better tomorrow for the generations after us. Dr. King didn’t get to see most of the fruit of his labor, and we still have a long way to go when it comes to equality and discrimination. But we, with a huge help from the Reverend, are slowly building a better world. Change is happening, even if it’s slow.
#5. Change requires sacrifice.
Dr. King was jailed 30 times. He, his family, his co-leaders, and his followers spent an immense amount of time, energy, and other resources fighting for a world they believed in, where every person would be truly free. They knew the sacrifice, and they believed it was worth it.
What are you currently sacrificing for your dream? What are you willing to give up to pursue your purpose? Is it worth it?
Obviously, this is only the tip of the iceberg when talking about things we can learn about social justice, world change, and personal growth from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. How are you taking action to make your dreams a reality today?