I recently watched the movie “Selma,” about Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to fight for voting rights. Like most good movies do, the film stirred emotions as it told its story — for me, anger and sadness were the most prevalent.
I can’t imagine how Dr. King managed to restrain his emotions as he (and so many others who fought for civil rights) repeatedly faced physical and bureaucratic obstacles. I assume his faith helped him a great deal, but that doesn’t discount the natural tendency for a challenged man to lose his temper. I always look inward, wondering how I might react if faced with challenges similar to Dr. King. There’s no comparison … I could NEVER have the amount of patience and restraint he showed.
That’s my inner struggle. I think Dr. King struggled with it too, but he was just WAY better at it than most of us.
To me, this is what made him so great. He knew if he allowed himself to release his anger to the masses, he would have little chance of convincing moderate America to lend him an ear. (Malcom X thought differently, of course.) Dr. King struggled not only against an unjust government/society, but struggled internally to not let his frustration turn others away from his cause.
Below is a speech I gave about MLK while serving at Joint Special Ops Task Force in the Philippines a while ago. While it’s a bit pointed, (I was speaking to fellow service members in a deployed environment,) my basic thoughts about Dr. King are still relevant.
Today, there are lots of reasons to be angry. But rather than just lashing out (either in person or via social media,) we should try to follow Dr. King’s example.
You in? I’m in.