Ofosu and Leah celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing some of his most impactful words. They reflect on what we can learn from Dr. King about the power to use our words for good.
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MLK: Somehow we must come to see that social progress, never rose in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. And without this hard work, Time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time.
And we must realize that the time is always right to do right.
[Effect — Singing bowl]
OFOSU: Hey, what's up y'all I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey.
LEAH: And I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We're the meditation coaches on Balance. And this is our weekly show Well-Balanced.
OFOSU: And today in the U S we are celebrating Martin Luther King Junior Day. That was an excerpt from a speech that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave at Stanford in 1967. It's called, ‘The Other America.’ Personally,I think it's a great example of the power that words have to inspire, to motivate, to really change us from within and socially, et cetera.
And that's what I would love to talk about today. The power of words and what Martin Luther King Jr. can teach us about how to use words for good.
OFOSU: So, you know, for the purposes of our show today, I thought it would be great if we both had quotes from Martin Luther King that we could bring to the table and read and chat about what they mean to us and to see if we can learn how to apply his way with words to our current world and ourselves as individuals.
LEAH: Such a great activity. I'm excited to do this and this is going to go deep.
OFOSU: Yeah. Okay. Well with that said, Leah, why don't you go first?
LEAH: Really find this quote speaks to me. He said “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
And since this is from his book, ‘Strength to Love’ written in 1963, I'm going to just, if you don't mind adapt it for all people and say, The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience and comfort, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy. It's funny because when I first read it, I didn't want to choose this quote.
And it's because there was something about it that made me go, oh, you know, like it really made me look at myself and that's why I chose the quote because it made me examine myself in a way that wasn't comfortable. [Ofosu reacts] I don't know about you. And we've talked a lot about this and I can speak for myself and I'm sure you, as a listener could also atest to the fact that we've been going through a rough time as a society.
Uh, and as individuals, they believe all of us have been so greatly affected by the change of events in this world recently. And so I would consider this a time of challenge and controversy for sure that we're undergoing definitely. And to really examine, like, what is the ultimate measure of me, how I'm showing up in these moments that are not comfortable, that are not convenient.
And am I proud of the way I've always shown up? And I can say that most of the time, I feel like I'm doing a great job moving through the wave, so to speak, but there are moments when I can admit to myself that I could have done better or I could have been kinder to myself. And I think that's why it's so powerful because it is something like this.
That's a gut check to go, hey, how are you actually doing in this time? And what are you hoping to stand for? Like how do you want people to remember you when you leave a room?
OFOSU: Yeah. Yeah. It's one of those quotes that if you allow it to be a measure of the inventory you take of yourself on a regular basis can really help you become the person that you want to be.
LEAH: Yeah. I just found it really powerful from an individual perspective. Uh, but I really want to hear your choice, Ofosu.
OFOSU: Sure. So my quote is kind of long, so hopefully you who are listening can bear with me here. It's from a speech called, ‘Love Your Enemies’. And, uh, this is an excerpt here, ‘so somehow the is-ness of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal oughtness that forever confronts us.
And this simply means this, that 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 towards 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 in spite of no matter what he does. You see God's image. There, there's an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy.
And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there, and you will take a new attitude.’
Similarly to the way you felt about your quote. When I think about what the quote is asking of you as a human being, it's just no small task. And I think that what Martin Luther King was asking of people individually and collectively was really to transform their consciousness, to transform their way of seeing, thinking, speaking, being. And to do so radically, but to do it radically in a way that didn't cause harm and really digging into what it means that it's not like some outmoded philosophy or something like that. It's actually trying to evolve your consciousness so that you can save civilization, like going back to the opening quote that we were playing, where time isn't necessarily on our side, when it comes to creating just universe it’s something that we have to work for. He said talks about is-ness versus oughtness, that we all have this tug of war inside of us, like our shadow side or bright side. And if you can acknowledge that you yourself are wrestling with how to be a good human being, then, you know, that the next person, whether you agree with them or not, whether they hate you or not, they're also wrestling with how to be a good human being and to be deliberate in choosing to see the good in others.
LEAH: I think it's also really a nice perspective to apply it towards ourselves too. You know, when we get caught up in moments of hating some part of ourselves or self hatred - to remember that there is good and the worst parts of us too, and to have compassion towards ourselves.
OFOSU: Yeah. That was an angle that I loved exploring about this quote. Also thinking about enemies, uh, really being the expressions of our character or our psyche or just of ourselves that we just, that we don't like, it could be mental health issues that are beyond our control, or it could be habits that we formed over time that are unhealthy. And if we go to war with ourselves, hating those parts of ourselves, instead of trying to embrace them, not necessarily condone them, but just trying to have an attitude of a loving attitude towards whatever arises within us. Um, yeah. Then we're not going to be able to change.
LEAH: And I think it's one thing to dawn, this new attitude of compassion and it's another to insert it into the words that we use towards people. There was a woman that I knew for a while, and I can't recall her name at this moment, but one thing I'll remember from her always was whenever someone would frustrate her or say something rude or do something rude, she would look at them and she’d go,
‘bless you’, which is a lot better than the ‘f you’, that some people would've liked to say. But she said it was her way of, you know, reminding herself to give kindness towards others in her words, because they most likely needed it more than her in that moment. And not in that you know, sarcastic kind of way, but in a compassionate way.
And it was her work to remind herself, to force yourself to use positive words. And I think that for me to see how the impact had on other people, when she would do that, it was really beautiful to see and witness. So how can we use our words to support other people, you know?
OFOSU: Yeah. I mean, reflecting on this topic and thinking about all the words that we hear on a regular basis, whether it's through the news or on social media, our loved ones, our, our leaders, et cetera. It's, we're constantly taking in information and makes you think number one, like, okay, well, what am I ingesting like is what I'm taking in healthy for me, is it really helping me be the person that I want to be?
And then also, what am I saying? You know, what am I saying to myself and what am I saying to others? So at the very least, it's like a moment to pause and reflect, like, how am I taking in and expressing myself? And, you know, I think Martin Luther King is an example of how words can transform the collective consciousness of the planet.
And so that's like the macro, but in order for the macro to be achieved, it's like everybody's micro has to shift. When we think of Martin Luther King, of course, if we do word association, this, most people are going to say, I have a dream. That's also a testament to the power of his words, you know?
He challenged us to envision a new world, or he put this vision of a new world in everybody's collective brain. And then, you know, really, how could you argue with that? If you create a vision in your mind of what things could be through, how you speak to yourself throughout how you speak to others, then you've got like this reference point to keep coming back to, um, and you know, we have not necessarily lived up 100% to Martin Luther King's dream, but we continue to.
Take steps in that direction. I mean, no matter what is going on in our society, what was happening when he gave that speech is not exactly what's happening now, we are making advances as a human race.
LEAH: Okay. MLK, you are bad-ass!
OFOSU: [laughing] You know, a rockstar who reverberates to this day. Yeah.
LEAH: It's just a beautiful thing to be able to continue to inquire into ourselves with teachers like this whos teachings live on through time.
OFOSU: Yeah, totally agree. So yeah, this has been a great conversation. Hopefully if you're listening, you're inspired to just reflect on the power of words. The power that words have to lift up and to inspire, to change, transform, or to do the opposite and to be more conscious with how we use speech internally and externally. And we have the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King to thank for inspiring us today.
[Effect — Singing bowl]
LEAH: If you like what we're doing here, please tell your friends and make sure to follow our podcast, to get notified when a new episode is added.
OFOSU: Alright, thanks for this discussion Leah and we will be back with another conversation next week until then take care, be kind to yourself.
LEAH: Have a beautiful week!
OFOSU: Yeah, peace.