Book Review – Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Mark Votava

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This book is a collection of themes that Martin Luther King, Jr. taught throughout his life.  For Martin Luther King, Jr. everything comes down to the courage to love.  This nonviolent, civil rights activist points us to the interrelatedness of all of life in which hatred and fear do not create our reality for us.  We move out of the status quo, prevailing opinions of our day and into a new imagination for humanity.

  •  The fear of change

“The softminded man always fears change.  He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new.  For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea…  The softminded person always wants to freeze the moment and hold life in the gripping yoke of sameness.”

  • Standing out from the prevailing opinion

“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion…”

  • Where we stand in times of challenge and controversy

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy…”

  • Hate destroys us

“Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates.  Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.  Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity.  It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

  • All of life is interrelated

“In a real sense, all of life is interrelated.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

  • A courageous way of life

“Courage and cowardice are antithetical.  Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance.  Courage breeds creative self-affirmation; cowardice produces destructive self-abnegation.  Courage faces fear and thereby masters it; cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it.  Courageous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live…”

  • Curing the disease of fear through love

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.  Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

How has the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired you?