The quotation below was recently read on the morning announcements at the school where I teach, and though I’d heard it before, this time it made me sit up and take notice.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s easy to hear this quotation, nod and think, “Oh yes, that’s so true,” and then go about our lives doing precisely the opposite. Fact is, it is intensely difficult to answer hate with love. And though I don’t (to my knowledge, anyway!) have a lot of people out there who hate me, I can still relate to this quotation. It is not easy to answer scorn with gentleness. It is not easy to answer snarkiness with kindness. It’s not easy to answer rudeness with politeness. And yet if we want to break the negative cycle, we have to try.
The people who loved Dr. King lost him, forty-three years ago today, on a hotel balcony in Memphis. And in that tragedy, they had to decide how to respond: with more hate, or with love. It must have been extraordinarily difficult to find that love; I know it would have been nearly impossible for me. But Dr. King called us to be better versions of ourselves, knowing that this was the only way to make a better world. And his words are an echo of the greatest teacher of all, that man named Jesus, who was love and light himself.
So my challenge for the week is this: How, in my thoughts and words, can I use light to drive out darkness? In honor of Dr. King, I’m really going to try.