Was Personal Growth One of Martin Luther King’s Superpowers?
By Rev. Dr. Aliah MaJon, CIO, The Shift Network
Millions of people around the world know the name Martin Luther King, Jr. because of his very effective and iconic rise as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century. His story appears in a countless number of sources, typically linked to the quest for racial equality and social justice here in the United States. He was a giant in terms of his service in this regard. And I am learning from my research that not only did he walk the path that he is so famous, but he also seems to have made it a point to equip himself with certain tools that he describes with passion and precision in the "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life" – a sermon he delivered in 1953. As I took in the clear messages and concepts that this sermon contained, I was struck by how much what he was preaching reflected what I consider a high-level understanding of spiritual growth and the golden keys to life-mastery principles. You are invited to join me in answering the question: Was Personal Growth One of Martin Luther King’s Superpowers? I feel this is relevant; the world is calling out to us as leaders.
Before I continue, let me offer two quotes from this little-known sermon that I will refer to here, which you are also invited to listen to in Dr. King’s own voice via the link to it below. I didn’t even know that recordings this early were available until I found this one. It is a treasure to have access to, and I’m especially excited to share it with you.
Dr. King offers sage wisdom in his thesis about a ‘complete life’ in his sermon…
“And there are three dimensions of any complete life to which we can fitly give the words of this text: length, breadth, and height. Now the length of life as we shall use it here is the inward concern for one’s own welfare. In other words, it is that inward concern that causes one to push forward, to achieve his own goals and ambitions. The breadth of life as we shall use it here is the outward concern for the welfare of others. And the height of life is the upward reach for God. Now you got to have all three of these to have a complete life.”
And he follows up with these powerful and enlightening words…
"Now the other thing about the length of life: after accepting ourselves and our tools, we must discover what we are called to do. And once we discover it, we should set out to do it with all of the strength and all of the power that we have in our systems. And after we’ve discovered what God called us to do, after we’ve discovered our life’s work, we should set out to do that work so well that the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. Now this does not mean that everybody will do the so-called big, recognized things of life. Very few people will rise to the heights of genius in the arts and the sciences; very few collectively will rise to certain professions. Most of us will have to be content to work in the fields and in the factories and on the streets. But we must see the dignity of all labor."
This article is meant to pique your interest about another superpower that I believe Dr. King had, personal growth… Here’s the 3 dimensions that Dr. King is talking about:
1. Length: Love Yourself
2. Breath: Love Others
3. Height: Love God (Or... whatever name you call your Higher Power.)
To make it short, I will only offer a few thoughts about what I personally came away with from this sermon… I’ll begin by stating that I think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an “Evolutionary”. What is an Evolutionary? Someone who decides to show up for what has not yet been done to take on what is related to the potential of human beings and the promise of our societies. To go further, they are a person who dedicates their life to finding fresh ways to address what is sorely in need of being handled to assist humanity to evolve. I must also add here that I personally aspire to walk such a path, but it is not an easy one. I have come to realize that growing in one’s understanding of exactly ‘how’ to walk on the path of an Evolutionary is both necessary and critical in order to succeed.
And, to me, Dr. King does a fine job in his sermon of putting forth an actual formula for those aspiring to be an evolutionary to follow. He says that everything starts with us really embracing who we are and cultivating self-love, which is done by accepting our strengths and facing our challenges in equal measure. We must respect and have genuine appreciation for both. Don’t ever try to be like someone else; be yourself. This is what the sermon passed on to me about the concept of ‘length’ or ‘Love Yourself’.
Next, Dr. King talks about ‘breath’ and the benevolent concept he defines as ‘Love Others’, which is not about the act of merely sharing love with those close to us. Instead, he speaks about letting an agape-type love for people inspire us to help others, to be proactively compassionate and to always have the welfare of others in our mind and heart along with our own welfare. In other words, to work to improve the world, to lovingly touch lives and to promote and seek to have a positive impact on what makes things better. All of which is to be carried out in a conscious and very deliberate fashion.
And, lastly, Dr. King preaches about the third concept that he knows as ‘height’, an idea that we might expect from him because he is a minister, but I heard more than the usual message from him to ‘Love God’. I sensed my inner voice get excited by the elevating opportunity he presented to us to look beyond, and my inner ears processed his thesis as telling us to make sure to bring our “Higher Power” with us as a means for achieving alignment with our individual mission in this life. Why do that? So that we can be lifted up and empowered by the Universe’ support and guidance; Universe being the words that I have taken to using to be inclusive when I talk about the illuminating intelligence and omnipotent power of God. However, the idea of God has oftentimes alluded us because a true relationship with God is not at all about descriptive words, it’s about realizing, knowing, and feeling that the greatest faculties that we possess reflect what our lives as human beings were meant to be when we were created. At least, this is what I comes through to me when I allow my intuition and mind to partner to expand.
What I believe that Dr. King is sharing in his sermon, is that it is important for us to find our Divine core and to allow the purest impulses from that core to reveal little by little what we are to do. And after we receive those messages, makes friends with the stretch required and embrace the vision, then, we are to absolutely go for it with the God-given power within us!
I could say more, but I want you to experience the sermon yourself.