There are very few words that seem appropriate to remember, honor, and truly appreciate the work and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have been to the site of his murder several times in Memphis, TN. Looking out the window of his hotel room onto that balcony where his life was taken has been one of the more sobering moments of my life. King is remembered for championing the Civil Rights Movement, for dreaming dreams, and for being a leader in non-violent marches and protests. Yet, we forget that in his 39 years, he was hated, betrayed, and died a very controversial prophetic voice critiquing the American systems.
So often I listen to the news reporters talking about King’s life being cut short. I hear them talking about how much more he could have accomplished. Yet, I am also hesitant to make the same claims given all that he had been through, all that he endured, all the words spoken, the steps marched, the protests attended, the physical abuse of bricks, letter openers, and punches. King suffered bomb threats, assassination attempts, among other things. King challenged the notions that ethical ministers should not break the law and that good citizens should be peaceable and stay silent. Why would a minister be arrested? Why was it time to break silence for the common good? It was 39 years, but I bet it felt like 100 years. In fact, in his last speech he asserted that he was tired, but not fearful…he has seen the goal of the promised land but suspected he would not arrive with his people.
Today, 50 years ago on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN…a gift to American political and religious discourse, a leader of civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr was shot and killed. That act did not end in death, because King’s legacy lives, his voice lives, his words live, his dream lives, and we are better for it. Interestingly enough, it took death to enshrine on America’s collective heart the true creativity and genius of a man and a movement overlooked and unfairly criticized by a power structure determined to succeed. While the struggle continues, and there is more work to do, we are grateful for the way King called America to a higher moral standard by combining the creeds of Christian thought and American political thought.
Listening to King’s speeches and studying his non-violent philosophy has been one of the most inspiring and influential parts of my academic life. I am indebted to King, and I thank him for his courage, strength, and truthfulness in the face of danger. If you are looking for something to read today…look at the Letter from a Birmingham Jail or perhaps read King’s eulogy for the four little girls killed at a church youth gathering. It may have only been 39 years, but it was long enough to make a difference in the lives of a nation…so King’s life was meaningful, useful, and full! Again, my words fail and fall short, but thank you Dr. King.
An attitude that belittles a person by asserting that there is no way this person can process, understand, or empathize with others due to factors of experience and cultural background among others.
Have you ever been in a situation or conversation where you left wondering if you were crazy? You perceived that the person talking to you either saw things in a completely different way than you did, or thought that you couldn’t ever possibly understand what they have experienced and their perspective on a situation. You leave the conversation knowing it didn’t go well, but you are unclear how to make it better…how it might have gone better…or what you have to offer the other person.
And in those moments where someone makes you feel or think like you have nothing to offer them, that is when you have fallen victim to the “capacity problem” because you have ran into someone who truly thinks you indeed have nothing to offer them, no perspective worth considering, and that the way this situation gets solved or this solution works is simply by taking what they have to offer you. You may think that relationships are meant to be a “give and take,” that conversations are a dialogue, and that solutions are best when shared input is solicited…but when you run into this group, that flies out the window!
Avoid being the Faux-Boss by making sure that newer people are welcomed into whatever group you have relational capital in. Ask others to share their opinions with you and listen to them, listen without trying to correct their views or defend something that you are personally invested in knowing that listening is more important than winning. And above all, support decisions and changes made by leaders as an influential member of a group, business, or organization even if you think differently because what I have experienced over my time in leadership is that no decision is “final and everlasting.” If you want to be a person who is respected by decision-makers, then you have to be a person who respects decision-makers.
Avoid being an Xpert by considering different perspectives and choosing to research not just the articles by scholars who agree with you, but read the ones who find faults in your concepts and reasoning. When meeting with others, bring your education and experience to bear but allow others to do likewise, knowing that each person has been invited to the table for a reason. Avoid Intellect type parenting by helping children problem solve instead of telling them what to do. If you want to be a person that other folks rely on for good information and wisdom, then be quicker to listen to multiple sources and slower to respond…I think James provides us with the idea…be quick to listen and slow to speak (1:19).
Who should look out for the Clique-keeper? I think those who try to personally invest in other people or groups where it could be seen as a threat to another person’s relationships and/or a threat to the emotional needs of that person. Often, those who cannot let new folks into a closed system suffer from their own emotional needs that are being met by the group. Therefore, if you work with people, like social services or human services; or if you trying to break into a new group, church, or even blended family…you might run into the clique-keeper.
Avoid being a clique-keeper by trusting that other people, even outside the group, or new to the family, have the ability and desire to feel what you feel and empathize with you. Avoid the skepticism of the “outsider” perspective, and understand that even the outsider can provide thoughtful insights into your group, business, family or friend group. One of the greatest gifts we can give to each other as humans is the gift of hospitality, and that is down when we open up our lives to others, let them in, and allow them to fully enter our space with their stuff (emotions, insights, perceptions, etc.) If you want to feel great about the relationships you have, continue to be open to new ones while fostering the lasting ones.
It is interesting to think about our relationship with God at this point because we truly have nothing to offer the creator and sustainer of our lives, yet God does not make us feel less than nor does he treat us as useless. On the contrary, God lavishes love and mercy upon us and accepts our sacrifices and offerings, regardless of how small, as beautiful worship. In Ephesians, Paul claims that God prides Himself in us as his Masterpieces, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared for us to do. You see, it is the exact opposite of God’s design and attitude to treat people as if they have nothing to offer, no perspective to give, and to dehumanize others in this way is to oppose God and truly be ungodly in our actions towards others. Let’s make sure that everyone we meet and treat knows that they have the capacity to provide insight, love, and meaning to us and others about whom we care.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.