There Are Three Dimensions To A Complete Life Do You Know Them?
The O.G. Martin Luther King Jr. dropped these gems in 1967, they are as useful now in 2017 just as they were then and will be for the time to come. This is why I am sharing them with you today. Ready? Here we go.
MLK believed that, "Life as it should be and life at its best is a life that is complete on all sides." How does one attain a life that is complete on all sides? I'm glad you asked. According to MLK there are three dimensions to it and the first of the three is:
The Length of life.
Dr. King says that this dimension of life is selfish in a sense because it's the inward concern for our own individual well being. This is not a narcissistic selfishness but it is as he describes it, "a healthy and rational self interest."
I believe that the length of life is where we build our self confidence, worth, strength, ambitions, and where we determine what is of value and what is not to us as individuals. It is pivotal to give ourselves these things because humans can be fickle sometimes, and we can't solely depend on others to give them to us.
Why? Let's say you are dependent on another person to give you those qualities aforementioned. If that person person leaves then so does everything you depend on that individual for.
Don’t outsource your self-esteem to someone else.
MLK said this is also the dimension where we have to learn to love ourselves, as he passionately quotes rabbi Joushua Lebiman "before you can love other selves adequately, you’ve got to love your own self properly." And you know what loving yourself also means? MLK asked. "It means that you’ve got to accept yourself."
When you accept yourself wholeheartedly you stop comparing your looks, what you're not able to do, what you don't have, where you are in life, and just your life in general to the next persons. That's that unshakable confidence. To me, there is something alluring about an individual authentically being themselves, Why? because there isn't another person like them out there.
I remind myself every now and then to be confident in the person that I am, what I have and the things that I can do because there isn’t another me out there. Cliché but very true.
Grow into your own perfection.
MLK gave an example of when he was in college, he had a classmate named Leif Cane that was very keen in statistics. Leif could do his homework in about a hour and then he was done. MLK admire this so he started to do his in a hour, but the more he would set out to do it the more he flunked the course. Thus, he acknowledged and accepted that his classmate had a better mind than him:
“Now, he may be able to do it in an hour, but it takes me two or three hours to do it." I was not willing to accept myself. I was not willing to accept my tools and my limitations."
I am so glad MLK accepted that he wasn't as sharp as Leif Cane when it came to statistics. I just can't imagine him wasting his years trying to keep up with and be like Leif. If he hadn't accepted who he was and what he wasn't able to do I'd probably be using a "colored only" restroom, bar, or water fountain in 2017.
The second part of the length of life after we accept ourselves is we have figure out what we're called to do in life and give it all we got. "After we’ve discovered our life’s work, we should set out to do that work so well that the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better," MLK echoed to the crowd.
While discovering what ones purpose is we have to understand that not everyone is going to end up with the high end job with the fancy titles. So some people will have find contentment with doing jobs that society doesn't deem as "real jobs," but screw society. As long as it makes you real money and your happy, don't mind them.
MLK broke it down like this: if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures;sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
If you need a more modernized representation of what he's saying: Go on out and sweep streets like a Chick-Fil-La employee do their job.
Be the best at whatever you are called to do.
The Breadth of Life.
This is when you're not only concerned about your own needs, but the needs of others as well. "It is the outward concern for the welfare of others."
Under this dimension MLK told short two stories that tied together.
The first one is from the Bible. When the man asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Love your neighbor as yourself). Jesus answered him by telling a parable of the man who fell among thieves on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. While on the side of the road, two men walked around him - a priest and a Levite. Another man of a different race (Samaritan) stopped and helped him. The last man of the three "loved his neighbor as himself." Jesus told the man who asked the question to imitate this example.
The second story was from MLK own personal experience. While walking down Simpson road in Atlanta, Georgia one night from his fathers house a man was flagging him down. MLK said he knew that the man needed some help, but didn't stop to help him because he was afraid. He believed that the same fear and the same question he asked on Simpson road is the same question the levite asked on Jericho road: "If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?"
What made the Samaritan who helped the man who fell among thieves so great in eyes King's is that he reversed the question: "What will happen to this man if I do not stop to help him?"
Although MLK didn't stop to help the man on Simpson Road. He did, however, put an entire human race on his back that cost him his life. If selfless had a face i’d imagine it would be his.
Before I get to the third and final dimension, the Samaritan’s and MLK selflessness reminded me of two months ago when Hurricane Harvey devastated my city - Houston. I had friends and family members who literally lost everything, some lived in shelters, and didn’t know what their next move would be. Witnessing them and fellow Houstonians being stranded on roofs, in their homes, and streets to avoid life threatening flood waters was one of the most painful and heartbreaking things I've witnessed. I seen it when it happened in New Orleans but the affect was different when it's close to home.
But what made my heart smile through all of that were the selfless individuals (policemen and women, firefighters, city officials, volunteers, and the extraordinary citizens) who risked their lives for the sake of others - people they didn’t even know. People from all parts of Houston were using their own personal boats, trucks, and whatever other resources they may have had to help whoever they could. It was admirable and heartwarming to see. I hope that same spirit of humanity continue to live throughout Houston and our world as a whole. The togetherness that was exemplified during Hurricane Harvey really showed me first hand what it means to, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
MLK closed this dimension by reminding us it's important to look after one another because we are tied together in life and dependent on one another:
"And then you go on to the kitchen to get your breakfast. You reach on over to get a little coffee, and that’s poured in your cup by a South American. Or maybe you want a little cocoa, that’s poured in your cup by a West African. Then you want a little bread and you reach over to get it, and that’s given to you by the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. Before you get through eating breakfast in the morning, you’re dependent on more than half the world."
I don't know how much of that is still true today, but it was a great way to put it into perspective.
The Height of Life.
This is what MLK calls the upward reach for God. We as humans tend to get caught up in chasing money, work, social life, and material stuff which sometimes cause to forget about God or whatever keeps up spiritually sane and grounded. There's nothing wrong with going after these things we just can't let the means by which we live outdistance the ends for which we live. Don't lose your soul trying to gain the world.
I know I've been guilty of this. When everything is going good in my life or have everything I want, I tend to not spend time with God as much. You know, praying like I should, reading the word, showing gratitude, and just talking to God. As soon as things start to go left for me I start questioning what am I doing wrong, and start asking the "why's." Then I realize that I've been disconnected from the source of my spiritual sanity and true happiness. I’ve concluded that this world and the things in it can only satisfy me for so long; they're transitory.
I Thank God for his unchanging grace and always accepting me with open arms every single time. Now I stay connected to God no matter what. Through the highs and lows. It's not easy, but it has given me peace, endurance, and confidence.
"We were made for God, and we will be restless until we find rest in him."
Also, under this dimension MLK recommended that we take a step back sometime from admiring man-made inventions (lights, skyscrapers, technologies etc), and instead gaze at this beautiful earth that was bestowed upon us by God. The mountains, stars, sun, sky, trees, grass and so on.
I was at my mechanics house one day sitting under his tree pecan tree. While sitting there looking at the pecans fall from the tree and hit the ground I thought to myself, "Wow! this tree really knows when it's time to produce and when it's time not to, and it's producing something that I can eat." I was in awe and surprised at myself that I was awe. I told this to my friend and he looked at me weird. I guess I forgot from the beauty of nature - I did.
And in August of this year, I got a chance to witness my first Solar Eclipse - the moon passed between the sun and the earth. It was one of the most dopest things I had ever seen. It's just amazing to me that our universe has a "mind" of its own. Both of those instances allowed me to appreciate this world and the workings of God more.
After listening to this sermon in its entirety I thought to myself, "I do all three of these for the most part. I love myself, I try my best to love my neighbor as myself, and I reach upward for God. So, why isn't my life "complete?" Then I realized that "for the most" isn't going to cut it. I have to be consistent. I also have to understand that just by putting the three dimensions into practice my life isn't just going magically turn around overnight - it's going to take time. And putting them into practice will help other aspects of my life fall into place.