Jan 18, 2021
One of the most moving orators of our time, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words to encourage self-love, love for others and to bring the human race together.
Depending on your age, you may not remember a time when the third Monday in January wasn’t reserved to honor the wisdom and contributions of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The holiday was signed into law in late 1983 but didn’t receive nationwide designation as a paid state holiday until 2000, 17 years later.
Wherever you are today, the Beautytap team hopes you’ll take a moment to reflect on some of King’s great sermons, memorable speeches, and insightful metaphors about light, love and acceptance.
Many sources shorten Dr. King’s quotation down to the bare bones of simple darkness and light by referencing only the second and third sentences, but in so doing, they eliminate important contextual information that grounds King’s wisdom in something more concrete — the practice of returning like for like, or in this case, the futile practice of fighting hatred with hatred. Much of this quotation is grounded in Dr. King’s passion for revisiting Matthew 5:43-45 throughout the year during his sermons because of its emphasis on loving our enemies.
In theory, it’s an easy thing to do. In practice, not so much. Recognizing that to banish what ails and hinders the world requires us to approach it from a position of complete awareness (or illuminated opposition) was not only a beautiful metaphor, but the epitome of loving others as a form of preservation, growth and hope. If we recognize that darkness holds us captive and that light sets us free, then we also learn that loving a person even while hating their actions can break the cycle of soul-crushing “destruction.”
On December 10, 1964 while accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace, Dr. King reminded the world that the civil rights movement was far from over and that people were being “brutalized and murdered” for peacefully seeking fundamental rights that had been withheld for far too long. The love that King spoke of in “Loving Your Enemies” is now seen as a way to transform a nation without responding to violence with more violence. In this speech, Dr. King juxtaposed bombs and bullets with “brighter” tomorrows and replaced the “‘isness’ of man’s present nature” with the “‘oughtness’” he believed resided within us all. Although the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to King personally, he accepted it on behalf of its “true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty.”
If you’re struggling to become something, to attain something, to evolve into something, Dr. King’s words may sound like a call to stasis, to simply accept what you are. Believe it or not, that is exactly what he spoke of in this 1967 sermon. Self-love, self-care, self-acceptance - these qualities sustain us internally, are necessary for living a complete life and form the foundation for recognizing our greater purpose so we can become our very best selves. King hopes we will be the fullest bush, the most effective trail, or the brightest star because acceptance of self doesn’t mean giving up your goals, but rather aligning them more closely with who your true self happens to be.
In closing, everyone at Beautytap wishes you a day filled with peace, hope, self-love and unity. Please let this serve as a reminder: “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform, FierceLeague.com, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.