There are countless reasons to admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Most people focus on the obvious: his passion for civil rights, his preaching abilities, his leadership during a time of great change. But we rarely ever focus our attention on Dr. King as a father figure. I find this sad because while we are living in a society where emotional and spiritual fatherlessness is becoming the norm, so much can be learned from the example of MLK.
I believe that if he were alive today, one of Dr. King’s top concerns would be the fatherhood crisis that affects so many children and families in America.
“According to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data, over 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers. That is 1 out of every 3 (33%) children in America. Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) African American children live in father-absent homes. One in three (34%) Hispanic children, and 1 in 4 (25%) white children live in father-absent homes. In 1960, only 11% of children lived in father-absent homes.
Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.” – Fatherhood Facts
Here are a few things we can all learn from MLK the father and family man
1. Lead by example
It is easy to say you believe in something but without action, you’ve accomplished nothing. MLK was able to transform his dream into action and he did it without violence and without malice. He also made it clear that his work was the work of God and for the future betterment of his children.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
2. You can and should stand up for your convictions but remember that actions have consequences
MLK spoke out boldly for what he believed in. He was unapologetic in his passion and always took responsibility for his actions. Even if it meant going to jail for doing what he knew was right.
“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
3. Keep your priorities in order
MLK knew that when you put God first in your life, all other things fall into place. He recognized that in order to be a leader himself, whether it be in his home, at the pulpit or marching in the streets, he needed to be in communion with the Supreme Leader.
“I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
4. In everything you do, show love
The love of others modeled by a father is invaluable. MLK showed love in everything he did, and in all of the things he said and even followed Jesus’s instruction so far as to love his enemies.
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”