This morning I read a remarkable perspective of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ended the terror of living as a black person in the United States. The article discusses how he taught the black community to face their worst fears and, as a community, accept abuse with a non-violent reaction. In the ways of Gandhi, Dr. King encouraged the black community to not be afraid to go to jail or ‘take the beating they had been trying to avoid their whole lives.’ Once the beating was over, we were free. This part of the article stopped me in my tracks:

“That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south.  Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song.  The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another.

Please let this sink in.  It wasn’t marches or speeches.  It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us.  It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid.”

And then, of course, because nothing is an accident, I was inspired to reach for an Osho book sitting beside my bed [that I haven't read in ages!] and randomly opened to this entry on Humiliation:

Be humble, then nobody can humiliate you.

Be egoless, then nobody can hurt you.

Sometimes it happens that others just find excuses to throw out their anger, but that’s no reason for you to get disturbed. There are only two possibilities: Either the other person is right, then you feel humiliated; or the other is wrong, then they are being ridiculous, so the whole situation is humorous and one can enjoy it.

If you feel that the other person is right, accept whatever is being said and be humble. If you are humble you can never be humiliated; that is the point. You are already standing in the last row; you cannot be thrown backward. You are not trying to become the first, so nobody can obstruct you. That is the whole Taoist attitude toward life. Be humble, then nobody can humiliate you. Be egoless, then nobody can hurt you.

These two concepts fit together so perfectly and begged to be shared :) From my perspective, while I doubt anyone who endured abuse in the South ever enjoyed it, they were able to show the world how ridiculous the situation was…and they were able to pass through the fire and sing joyously at the freedom they found on the other side.

Facing their fears together made them free. Their willingness to put themselves last made them first. [In the words of Jesus, Mark 9:35, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."]

These courageous individuals lived this truth. They sacrificed themselves to make us all free. And as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day in the States (through this extended weekend), we do so in gratitude for his sacrifice…and the sacrifices made by all [of all gender, nation, and color] who walked with him.

More than that, I hope it causes us all to take another look at our fears and recognize that if we can take the worst, we can take the risk :)

Photo source: Last to First :)

Author note: “If you can take the worst, take the risk” were words from a fortune cookie I received while living in Indiana. I loved the words so much that I taped them below my light switch to be reminded. Now, fourteen years later, it appears my technique was successful ;)