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MLK

“I look at my little daughter every day and she wants certain things — and when she wants them, she wants them. And she almost cries out, ‘I want what I want when I want it!’ She is not concerned about what I think about it or what Mrs. King thinks about it. She wants it. She’s a child, and that’s very natural and normal for a child. She is inevitably self-centered because she’s a child. But when one matures, when one rises above the early years of childhood, he begins to love people for their own sake. He turns himself to higher loyalties. He gives himself to something outside of himself. He gives himself to causes that he lives for and sometimes will even die for. He comes to the point that now he can rise above his individualistic concerns, and he understands then what Jesus meant when he says, ‘He who finds his life shall lose it; he who loses his life for my sake, shall find it.’ In other words, he who finds his ego shall lose his ego, but he who loseth his ego for my sake, shall find it. And so you see people who are apparently selfish; it isn’t merely an ethical issue but it is a psychological issue. They are the victims of arrested development, and they are still children. They haven’t grown up. And like a modern novelist says about one of his characters, ‘Edith is a little country, bounded on the east and the west, on the north and the south, by Edith.’ And so many people are little countries, bounded all around by themselves and they never quite get out of themselves…

And the way to solve this problem is not to drown out the ego but to find your sense of importance in something outside of the self… This is the way to go through life with a balance, with the proper perspective because you’ve given yourself to something greater than self. Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s a great cause, it’s a great loyalty, but give yourself to that something and life becomes meaningful.”

MLK and family

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From the sermon “Conquering Self-Centeredness”, delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. Dr. King was assassinated on this day in 1968.

More MLK:

  • King’s beautiful and hauntingly prophetic final sermon, given the night before his death
  • King describes the moral imperative to oppose the Vietnam war
  • King tells us when and how we should break the law

(I couldn’t help posting my favorite King picture. Below: King and Karl Barth outside the Princeton University chapel. On a Sunday in April 1962, King preached the morning service and Barth taught the evening’s small group. Not a bad day’s line-up.)

Karl Barth and MLK