The Dimensions of a Complete Life, Bold Words from Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the face of the Civil RIghts Movement. The man who gave the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. The man who was arrested on numerous occasions as he fought for racial equality and3181001112_c15c9593b7_o social integration. The man who has been revered for his brilliant mind and fight for peace. A reverend, theologian, doctor, and social justice worker.

I have known about this man for quite some time.

And it was only recently that I truly met him…in his writing.

Last month in my Classical Christian Thought course, we read his work of The Measure of Man, particularly The Dimensions of a Complete Life. Yes I have known of King since grade school, but it was truly the first time that I, an adult, met him outside the realm of movies and what my grade school teachers taught me about him. I met him through something as unique and as deep as his own words.

I admit, it is hard to try to paraphrase and shorten anything because every word he says is so uniquely brilliant, with each sentence con densely holding the right amount of wisdom and inspiration. As a true man of faith, it was his passion for evangelization that led him to be such a powerful activist. He was, and still is, such an influential speaker that shared wise words. True words. Bold words.

Length of Life

According to King, the first dimension of life “is concerned with developing his own inner powers.” This dimension of life is to not permission to be self-indulged or prideful…but seeking to know and care for oneself and knowing what one was made for.

“Many people have been plunged into the abyss of emotional fatalism because they did not love themselves properly” said King.

It cannot be underestimated how important it is for an individual to explore the depths of their own heart and soul. It is then that we can passionately pursue any endeavor, living life to the fullest. It is when this is mastered that we have achieved the first dimension…the length of life, a healthy self-interest.

How to increase this dimension:

In order to fulfill your vocation for life and serve those around you it is necessary to know who you are and Whose you are. Take time and continue to reflect on yourself and how you are called to live life.

  • Take on a new hobby (kayaking, crafting, learn a few songs on the guitar…)
  • Write in a journal frequently
  • Explore the inner workings of your heart
  • Read a good book that encourages self-exploration (I recommend Love Does by Bob Goff or The Meaning of Vocation by St. John Paul II)
  • Constantly seek to deepen your self-love

Breadth of Life

It is through the first dimension of length that the second can be achieved which is the breadth of life. 8388548852_6dba9c419a_bThis is a dimension that calls for one to earnestly have a deep concern for others. The more selfless we become, the more we give to others, and the more authentic joy and wisdom we get out of life. Our lives are not solely about us, they involve a whole generation of individuals we impact.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

This breadth comes from the fact that as a society we are all interdependent of one another.

“As long as disease are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more that twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy… I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made.”

How to increase this dimension:

As unique minds with specific talents and flaws, we are called to be activists of life. We are called to be active participants, taking on a selfless role in society.

  • Take on selfless habits
  • Don’t dictate conversations and practice listening to others
  • Become more educated and well cultured on social issues
  • Be active by volunteering in your community and explore your gifts in order to authentically serve others (at a parish, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, at a hospital…)
  • Don’t think less of yourself, but simply think of yourself less

The Third Dimension

King blows my mind once again, admitting that the first two dimensions lead to and depend on the third dimension which is a devotion and deep love for the Lord.

“Seek God and discover him and make him a power in your life…Saint Augustine was right–we were made for God and we will be restless until we find rest in Him” said King.

Without a devotion to God life is less fulfilled and seemingly meaningless. It is through this dimension that we can strive to go beyond materialism and idolatry, acknowledging the God of the universe who is faithful and a strong fortress to hold onto.

How to increase this dimension:

It’s hard to understand an importance in a relationship and love for the Lord in a secular world. Luckily God is bigger and more beautiful than any shallow promise of this culture. He will not be outdone in generosity, offering so many ways for us to know Him and encounter Him.

  • Get involved in faith formation and ministry at your church
  • Allow yourself to develop relationships with an inspiring and faithful community to help lead you
  • Be open to spiritual awakenings and faith growing experiences (retreats, nature walks, holy hours)
  • Strive for holiness and don’t settle for less
  • Be a person of thanksgiving by acknowledging everyone and everything as a gift, not because of the gift itself but because of the Giver

“The more we learn about this universe, the more mysterious and awesome it becomes.”

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