It's safe to say that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced, represented, and advocated for peace, acceptance, and connection. Dr. King is more than just a historical figure in the Civil Rights movement, but a ever-present symbol and representation of human connection; seeing past surface differences to understand the person for who they are. For those, like me, who were not alive during this tenuous time of battling between two dichotomous ideologies - embracing all as human beings and equal rights versus fear of change and differences - you can only imagine the presence of fear, anger, and aggression. You see, fear is often at the root of our negative experience. During the last time you were truly angry, were you feeling invalidated, unheard, misunderstood, cheated, embarrassed, stupid...? When we take time to process these complex experiences, we notice that somewhere in our existence, whether conscious or somewhere below, we are afraid of not being or not being seen for who we believe we are supposed to be. A man who feels powerless also feels inhibited as what he believes a man is supposed to be (strong, assertive, and in control). To not be who we believe ourselves to be is to lose our identity. The smartest person in the class loses his temper when he makes a grade sub-par to the last. If he is not the smartest person in that moment, then who is he?
Dr. King challenged us to look inward and question the deeply ingrained ideologies we held to be true. Are we as Caucasians superior in some way, therefore, requiring special treatment over all other races? Are minority races inferior in some way that Caucasians need to oppress, aggress, or even hate them? Well, of course, we know the answer to both of these questions is a firm and rigid, "No!"
Today, in honor of the message Dr. King wanted us to understand and share with our fellow human beings, I want to suggest a challenge. Think of someone who has recently made you angry; perhaps even so angry that you experience disdain or extreme dislike just by thinking of them. Try to remember what caused you to feel this way. Go ahead, take your time to think now... Now, ask yourself what was triggered in you by this person or his/her actions. This is not what they did, but what comes up for you. What memory, experience, feeling, physiological sensation comes up while processing this interaction. Take five to 10 minutes to sit in silence, with your eyes closed, and just allow this image to unfold.
When you are finished, give yourself permission to forgive the person and yourself. If you're asking why forgive yourself, consider that the anger you've held all this time is only deteriorating you, and causing you to miss out on something else, b/c the anger is filling the space, and shaping your perception. Forgive yourself for what you've missed due to holding on to the anger. Forgiveness is paramount. To be cliche, life is short. Why punish yourself by holding on to anger intending to punish someone else. If their actions justify anger, then these actions aren't worth the energy required to hold on to them.
Believe me, I know it's easier to be angry than feel vulnerable. However, like engorging in chocolate or alcohol, you may think you feel good now, but just wait until it's over. That's when the consequence(s) set in.