Martin Luther King: A Lesson in Forgiveness

What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us about forgiveness

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’m reflecting on the man who so elegantly fought to achieve equality for all. Dr. King had a big vision for his people, his nation. Sadly, his life ended before he could see the positive results born from his non-violent marches, protests and inspirational speeches.

Why Choose Forgiveness

As I ponder the subject of forgiveness, I wonder if Dr. King struggled with this issue. How did he forgive his country, those  who did not want to share buses, bathrooms, or restaurants with “colored” (the term used back in the days of the civil rights movement) people?

Perhaps his own words say it best: “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King went on to do great things for our country because he understood the power of forgiveness. He also knew the importance of having mercy on people who didn’t know better. As a result, he counteracted hate with education and love.

How Forgiveness Works

Many of us confuse forgiveness with agreeing with what happened to us. When you forgive, you do it so you can transform your suffering into something more positive – perhaps personal growth, tolerance, or simply realizing that we all make mistakes.

There will always be someone (or something) to forgive — from the guy who cut you off in traffic — to those who underestimate you because of your disability. If Dr. King could forgive the many injustices he encountered – many MAJOR injustices – it’s possible for us to forgive the injustices – both big and small – in our own lives. We can do this by embracing a constant, conscious attitude of forgiveness – one seemingly unforgivable moment at a time.

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  • I could not have said it better my dear sister. You write so eloquently. I am so proud of you and the wonderful insight you are sharing with others. Keep up the good and positive work.

  • Nice piece I personally need to focus my efforts on forgiving others, it takes a lot of inner strenght to forgive people for their wrongful actions. Great article Nicole keep up the good work. 🙂 Rudy T.

  • I am really enjoying reading your blog and I know that I can’t begin to express myself giving you your due praise…. but I will try. You are really gifted and while reading your blog your courage, love and empathy shine through. I find your writing profoundly moving and touching. Please don’t stop. You have found your special niche.

  • you did not mention anything about the original peoples of this country, The Indigenous, everyone seems to forget us…why?

  • Wow, marvelous weblog structure! How long have you been running a blog for? you made running a blog look easy. The full glance of your website is magnificent, let alone the content material!

  • thank you for useing your blog to remind us of the importance of forgiveness for ourselves and others. We should also remember the forgiveness of Jesus as he asked the Father to “fogive them for they know not what they do”. There are times we may be harmed by someone out of their ignorance. Whether the harm is intentional or unintentional spiteful or injest we should practice forgiviness, the positive juicies of forgiveness serves us all well.

  • You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I’ve learned something like this before. So good to seek out somebody with some unique thoughts on this subject. I really thank you for beginning this up. This web site is something that’s wanted on the web, someone with slight originality. Useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  • Wow, I love this Nicole! It came at the right time… I’m having some forgiveness issues today. I know I’m not justified, but it is easier to hold onto anger sometimes than to let go and take responsibility for your quality of life. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi Melissa,

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you saw this at the right time. With regard to holding on to anger, remember that you’re human! Anger is a powerful emotion and is the root of hurt and pain. We’ve all been there; it’s important not to stay there.

  • I am amazed whenever I see someone holding onto a grudge or some other type of hurt. Forgiving others is so much less about them….so much more about US! It took me forever to learn that. Thanks so much for sharing, Nicole. I love coming to your blog!

    • Hi Christi,

      Thanks! I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. Do you have any tips on how not to hold a grudge? What do you do when you feel like letting anger and hurtful emotions get the best of you (if this happens to you)?