BALTIMORE — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of impeccable word. He preached what he believed and lived like he believed every word he said.
Long before that fateful day, April 4, 1968, when he was killed on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, King committed his life to demonstrating to the masses that peace was possible.
Dr. King was a man who spent countless nights alone in jail paying for the injustices he fought against, all the while praying for his people and writing letters of encouragement to the entire nation.
Here was a man who, when his home was bombed [with his family inside] by segregationists in retaliation for the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, used his voice to calm a crowd of black folk who gathered on his lawn angry, armed, and ready to fight back.
This was a man who took a stab to his flesh, just inches away from his heart, and turned the other cheek.
Dr. King was a man who knew that peace, true peace, comes from within. He also knew that peace was what he had on the inside. Knowing this, he marched with courage, lived boldly and spoke with conviction:
“Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him…” — Excerpt from the sermon Loving Your Enemies, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL on November 17, 1957
King had tapped into a realm of peace that many of us have trouble wrapping our minds and hearts around. Something spiritual. Something that can’t be won by waging war or inciting a movement. Something that can’t be achieved by marching and “acting” peacefully. Something that can’t be attained by forcing our opinions and judgments on others about what is right, wrong, good or bad in the name of one god or another. There is nothing peaceful about living an exhausting existence fighting to make the world understand and accept that black lives matter, that all lives matter, that your life matters.
It’s not head knowledge the world needs right now; there’s enough intellect aimlessly floating around, about how to increase the peace. What the world really needs is more heart knowledge. What Dr. King did was cast a light on the possibility of peace with words of wisdom from his heart. He once said, “forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” The same is true for peace. It is a way of being— a lifestyle.
We are so quick to demand it, but are we even qualified to do so? Are we demanding peace in your own homes. With the people we come in contact with from day to day, especially the ones who share the same skin as us— like, the young lady at McDonald’s who was unpleasant and messed up your order; the person that cut you off on the road; the young man walking in front of you literally showing his behind because he bought his pants two sizes too large; the person who stole your purse; or robbed your house; or shot your son.
Part of the problem is we think we can strategize our way to peace, force it even without taking a look into our own souls and actually living that which we seek. Are we forgiving the father or mother we think abandoned us? Are we communicating respectfully with people we don’t understand? Are we letting go of past hurts? Are we removing judgement from our perception of people and why they behave the way they do? Are we peaceful with our neighbors? Do we speak peace into the lives of every person we encounter everyday, or are we still gossiping calling it “tea” to make it socially acceptable?
Peace is more than a word; it’s a commitment. A commitment to good all the time.
Before we can stand for peace in our social and worldly affairs, we must first stand for peace right where we are— in our own minds and in our own hearts. The protesting and marching we do to change the public’s perception about black folk and poor folk should be mirror images of how we we treat each other and ourselves when no one is looking.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who had a dream that one day the collective consciousness of peace among the people would rise up and cast light on the chaos caused by what he called the “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who embodied the peace he wanted to see in the world. Do you?