Commentary

Martin Luther King Jr’s greatest lesson is needed now more than ever

Martin Luther King Jr’s greatest lesson is needed now more than ever
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Photo: Smithsonian archives

Today we celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and commitment to non-violent transformation.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend,” and, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”I think his wisdom rings as true today with our movement for LGBT equality as it did during the black civil rights movement.

But what does love and non-violence really mean? Does it mean that we don’t hit back when swung at? That we don’t break things or destroy property?

Does it mean that we don’t cuss out those who cuss at us? Does it mean that we turn the other cheek and take the higher ground in our thoughts, words, and deeds?

Or does it mean that we aspire to love our neighbor, even the one that voted against us?

Does it mean seeing like Gandhi did, that the enemy is not the person who is wholly taken over by homophobia, but the enemy is the condition of homophobia and our job is to lovingly help free that person from the untruth.

We cannot change hearts and minds by making people wrong. We must create a field of love where we can all be liberated to the truth of the oneness that Dr. King talked about. Where we can gently help people to release whatever fear or judgment that they have that keeps them from loving and accepting LGBT people.

It may seem counterintuitive and scary. But we know that when we give we receive. We must show compassion to receive compassion. It means being vulnerable and courageous. Turning people who voted against us into villains doesn’t help.

I’m not saying that it makes me feel good when someone has voted against my civil rights, but I know that each and everyone of us has been raised in a homophobic society and each and everyone of us has to unlearn that homophobia. We need to be gentle teachers, not shame and blame, or worse fill ourselves with the very hatred that we seek to undue in others.

Let’s honor Dr. King’s memory by recommitting ourselves to principles of love and non-violence. After all, this is a movement about love, greater love, more love, and valuing love.

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