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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