The following are the notes I used to give me speech at the Tacoma Dome this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
I am honored to be here with you today celebrating the birth, the life and the legacy of a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dr. King stood for something. While facing overwhelming adversity, he stood for courage in the midst of fear, he stood for peace in the midst of unrest and he stood for love where there appeared to be none.
I believe it was Dr. King who stated "if we are not willing to stand for something, we will fall for anything. Well, he didn't fall for anything, he stood for a truth that has the capacity to set us all free.
He was able to do this by becoming an extraordinary man, yet he was born an ordinary man. By consistently practicing the principles of non-violence and forgiveness, he was able to gain access to an inner extraordinary power that allows ordinary men do extraordinary things.
By consistently rising above the human condition and his human personality, he tapped into something divine - that "something" we call God and by many other names. He tapped into a power that makes a way out of no way and the impossible possible.
Dr. King dreamed the impossible dream and walked toward it until it became possible. We have an opportunity to now make what he made possible a reality.
There are many stories that we can recall on how this great man walked his talk. I recall one in particular that I’d like to share with you.
The story goes that Dr. King was attending an event to give a speech, when a man approached asking if he were Dr. King. He answered, “yes, I am Dr. King.” – and the man proceeded to spit on him. Dr. King calmly pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the hate from his suit. He handed it back to the man saying “this - sir, I believe – belongs to you.”
Dr. King had a dream that one day this nation would come together as one with a unified intention towards healing and forgiving past hurts.
In order for him to be a vehicle for this dream, he had to put into practice the principle of forgiveness over and over again - not by denying the experience of abuse and racial injustice, but by standing in his commitment to non-violence, and transcending abuse and racial injustice.
He was committed to this vision and refused to allow the pain and negativity of others determine his freedom, his peace of mind or the quality of his life.
He had that dream for us. That one day, we would stop blaming others for our pain, and cease holding anything or anyone accountable for our freedom. He knew that we had the same power that he had gained access to, and that we could claim our own freedom, peace of mind, prosperity and success, independent of the beliefs and actions of others.
He understood that by holding unforgiveness in our hearts, we were binding ourselves in the very chains we were attempting to break free from.
The chains of resentment – which is the remembering, retelling reliving of a painful event long after the event itself has passed.
I personally lived that way for a long time, believing that I was a victim of the beliefs and actions of others. This belief fueled a life of drug addiction and alcoholism. I believed that if I told the same story long enough, if I relived the pain one more time, that I was somehow hurting my enemies – when in reality, I was ingesting my own poison, while my so called enemy didn’t miss a beat or lose any sleep over it.
It was through making a conscious decision to free myself through the power of forgiveness that I stand before you today with 25 years of sobriety – free, empowered and living the dream.
How many of you are ingesting the poison of resentment into your own lives? How many of you are releasing the toxins of unforgiveness into your hearts, minds, bodies and into your communities?
If you can imagine for just a moment fifty pound chains around your neck, your heart and your shoulders. Imagine the weight of those chains on your body. That’s what unforgiveness does – even if you feel justified in your pain – it weighs you down and blocks your joy – it makes you ineffective.
Now I want you to think about love, and imagine the chains around your neck, heart and shoulders fall away. A great Sufi poet by the name of Rumi says “there is a field beyond right and wrong – I’ll meet you there.”
Just take in a deep healing breath and on the exhale – just become willing to let it go. That’s just the beginning.
I say the beginning, because to actually do this, there is a process involved. In my book, “12 keys to freedom,” I outline the process of how to arrive at this place of freedom and power through forgiveness.
We all want to experience freedom, joy and prosperity, but there's work to do.
We are standing at a recovery moment in history, where it is no longer acceptable to identify ourselves as us over here and them over there, or talk about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. It’s time to actually do the work so that forgiveness is no longer an interesting theory or a nice idea – but a dynamic force in our lives – that makes a way out of no way and the impossible possible.
Dr. King did not consider forgiveness to be a passive acquiescing to abuse. He considered it a pro-active position of immense power and courage. Forgiveness does not condone inappropriate behavior. It gives us the clarity to respond firmly, decisively, compassionately and effectively, and has the potential to create a winning outcome for all concerned.
The human condition has been pushed and motivated by pain for centuries. We don’t have to do it the hard way anymore. We can allow a new vision of liberty, healing and wholeness to guide our thoughts and our actions.
But we must start right here at home - first in our own individual lives, then as a nation and then the world. Before you forgive Libya, forgive your next door neighbor, before you forgive and heal Iraq, forgive your own brothers and sisters, before we heal Afghanistan, forgive your mother, father, daughters and sons. Before you heal the planet, heal those places deep down in your own hearts that feel unworthy and afraid.
When we can look at our own faults with compassion and tolerance, we can have compassion and tolerance for others in a way that sets us all free - and when we make decisions based on freedom and love instead of hate, the dream of Dr. King will finally be fulfilled. Instead of handing the hate back to those who have hated us, we can extend love, and with the conviction of Dr. King, say from our hearts I believe this belongs to you.
Keynote at the DomeCelebrating the Life & Legacy of
Martin Luther King, Jr.
'Freedom Through Forgiveness' examines the spiritual process that transformed Martin Luther King, Jr. into one of our most powerful and inspiring visionaries.
Presented at the official Tacoma City event held at the Tacoma Dome, January 16, 2012.
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