Three years ago, on the third Sunday of January, we had a conversation in our weekly twitter chat about The Spirit of a Dreamer honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. As I was considering our topic for this week, in a world which seems filled with a lot more turmoil than it perhaps was then, I was led to consider this question: What was it that made MLK Jr stand out and make such a huge impact on our world? What was the reason for his greatness, his ability to move and motivate so many to take action for their rights, their freedoms?
One of the distinguishing qualities of a leader who makes a lasting impact upon our world with an impact that is felt by many generations to follow, is their strength of character. That single word, character, has many different definitions, some of which are:
Character refers to the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual ; the quality of being individual, typically in an interesting or unusual way ; strength and originality in a person’s nature
What does the word “character” mean to you? In addition to “mental and moral” qualities, are there “spiritual” qualities that can be ascribed to one’s character? There are some who believe that we are born with many of the “elements” which define our character, our uniqueness, and we refine them as we live our life. Do you agree with this thesis? Or do you believe that our character is largely shaped by the habits that we acquire and the lessons that we learn as we live our life?
So, what was it about MLK Jr and his character that inspired people to aspire? History states that his turn towards the adoption of non-violence was influenced by the likes of Mohandas Gandhi, Tolstoy (War and Peace), and Thoreau (Civil Disobedience). It must have taken great inner conviction, developed over time, to adopt non-violence in those violent times of the Civil Rights movement. It must have taken great force of character, and he must have paid a heavy “price”.
No matter what price he had to pay, I, for one, am grateful that MLK Jr decided to make his truth his character. The impact of his decision was literally “brought home” to me in a piece of writing that came with the weekly schoolwork this Friday. I share a few lines with you…
I have a dream that the world could live in peace. That the 7 continents could live without war. That people could talk things out before declaring hate on their enemies.
People can win their freedom without fighting. People should be able to talk out hate and turn it in to happiness and Joy.
I have a dream that we can live without war and hatred. People can truly win with kindness. War doesn’t do anything but make problems. We need to choose between kindness or hatred.
I choose kindness.
– A. Ajmani
So, there you have it. The impact of those who live and act with high spiritual character, on the generations that follow. One of my influencers, Swami Vivekananda used to say – “if there have been Rishis (spiritual visionaries) before, we can be Rishis too”! I agree, and I say, why not? Why not we elevate our spiritual practices to such a level that our every thought and action reflects our vision, our dream – our dream of peace, of kindness, of a world without war – or whatever our dream may be that we would like to manifest…
If one person’s dream was dreamt and achieved, so can yours and mine. It’s one way to build character…
P.S. Join us (with host @AjmaniK) on twitter in #SpiritChat Sunday January 18th, 9am ET for a chat about “Our Spiritual Character”. If you have comments about this post or questions for the chat, please add them below. Thank you!
Ready? Q1. "Spiritual Character". Reflect on that. What feelings does it evoke"? #SpiritChat Q2. When we are living our potential, we are "in character". What does it take to be in that life-mode? #SpiritChat Q3. Think of some character traits of Martin Luther King, Jr. Why were they relevant? Are they still so? #SpiritChat Q4. What builds character? What tears it down? #SpiritChat Q5. "Character is more of a moral than a mental attitude". Agree or disagree? #SpiritChat Q6. What is it that remains when character is lost? How can it be regained? Can it? #SpiritChat Q7. What is the connection between character, dignity, and truth? Do share. #SpiritChat Q8. How is the character of a community established? How is it preserved? #SpiritChat Q9. Send a message about character to past, current and future generations. Thank you! #SpiritChat Final Q10. Share YOUR work (book, blog, site etc) which enriches your character. Thank you! #SpiritChat
Storify summary of the chat: https://storify.com/ajmanik/our-spiritual-character