Martin Luther King wasn’t just one of the greatest civil rights advocates, who changed America’s history and improved the lives of generations to come. The visionary and orator also left many more lessons that teach us how to grow spiritually and professionally.
Authors Joseph W. Weiss, Michael F. Skelley, Douglas (Tim) Hall, John C. Haughey, S.J. take a deeper look at that part of his legacy. Find out how you can use some of those lessons to find your true calling.
For some of us, questioning our purpose in life and career are frequently forced to the forefront by the pressures and challenges — and sometimes boredom and emptiness — of our workplace. Still, these questions are a powerful way in which our human spirit manifests itself. Therefore, finding meaningful answers to them is one of the essential tasks we face when we attempt to integrate spirituality more fully in our lives.
The lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King — simple people who became extraordinary leaders — illustrate the intense, sometimes painful human searching and discovery process that occurs on the path to realize one’s unique calling. One’s spiritual journey unfolds; it is rarely if ever a linear path. Discovering who we are and who we are called to be often involves self-sacrifice and giving up predetermined images and plans. Like Gandhi and King, we can find our unique purpose in life through deep self-reflection and learning through action to listen to the voices of our communities and to the Infinite—God. Gandhi did not know until the second part of his life that he would become a non-violent Indian activist and then spiritual leader whose mission was to free his country from British rule. He probably never realized that he would be “the most important religious figure of our time” as the historian Lewis Mumford proclaimed. His journey twisted and turned from a below average shy, awkward law student, to a minor law clerk in a South African law firm, then to a successful lawyer, and on to become a non-violent civil rights advocate and selfless spiritual leader. Similarly, Martin Luther King did not know when he graduated in the early 1950s with an undergraduate degree in sociology that he would later take a doctorate in theology and then serve as a Baptist pastor before founding and leading a national nonviolent organization that would thrust him into the role of a controversial social activist, visionary, and orator. He would not have anticipated he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before being assassinated for the cause of racial integration and freedom for black Americans. Like Gandhi, King lived with, faced, and triumphed over many of his demons during intense inner dialogue, conflict, prayer, and discovery before following his calling and purpose in life.