The Surprising Lesson for All of Us from Martin Luther King

If you have seen the movie Selma about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the voting rights movement, then you have seen how the voting rights movement was a declaration

tug of war game between men

When you set a new boundary for yourself, you move the unequal boundary others have enjoyed.

of a new boundary. The people said No. No longer. No more. The people said Yes. Yes better. Yes more.

The people said, Today is the day that I insist on respect. Today, I change the old pattern of having my legal rights violated, of being treated differently, of being denied what is mine. Today is the day I insist that others respect my right to have what is mine to have. Today is the day I set a new boundary for myself in what I will accept from others and in what I will deny myself.

Setting a new boundary always involves No. No longer. No more.

Setting a new boundary also always involves Yes. Yes to better for yourself. Yes to more for your relationship.

“Our lives begin to end

the day we become silent

about things that matter.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Lesson of the Boundary

You own your power to say No. No longer. No more. To say, Today is the day that I change an old pattern of accepting what is given to me, or denied to me, by others. Today is the day I begin telling others how I need them to respect me.

Telling others that you have set a new boundary for yourself and you insist that it be respected is not easy. It is tough to tell others No. It may be a new experience for you. You may feel fear. You may be concerned with hurting others feelings. You may fear losing the relationship.

Indeed, you must lose the old relationship.

What you cannot know at the outset is whether you will gain a new relationship with the same person. If you do, the new one will be built on recognition of your right to have your boundaries respected and your needs met.

The Boundary Challenge

It is tough for others to hear No from you.

When they are used to you behaving in certain ways – ways that are advantageous to them and detrimental to you – they don’t want you to stop accepting their power over you.

It is tough to continue to honor your new boundary in the face of verbal objections and manipulations by others. They may offer you the same kind of nonsense that Governor Wallace offered LBJ.

It’s tougher to continue insisting on respect for your boundaries, for your rights, when others threaten physical violence and tougher still when they deliver on that threat.

The challenge of a boundary comes from others who do not want a change in the status quo.

The Boundary of No

Selma showed the reaction of Whites who were not willing to accept that Blacks could insist on a new boundary for themselves. They resisted a change in the status quo. They wanted to maintain the unequal balance in the relationship between Whites and Blacks. Alabama Governor George Wallace epitomized the denial of Whites in recognizing the inequality when he told President Johnson that he recognized the legal right of Blacks to vote, but could do nothing to enforce that right within his state.

It’s clear in Selma that Blacks did not concern themselves with the feelings of Whites. They concerned themselves with taking care of their needs. They let Whites take care of their own needs and feelings.

As self-help author Melody Beattie teaches, you cannot simultaneously take care of your own needs, and the feelings of others. The boundary of No is that when you say No to others, you define what you say Yes to yourself.

The Boundary of Yes

Relationships that are built on unequal power are dependent relationships.

They are not the strong and powerful interdependent relationships that allow both parties to thrive.

When you set a boundary for yourself, you redefine your personal identity. You change the balance of power in the relationship, from one that was unequal, to one that is equal. The more others object, the more you can be sure that your new boundary has changed the balance of power in the relationship.

You make it possible to be close to others by caring for them instead of taking care of them. You let them take care of themselves while you take care of yourself.

You give relationships that are powerful and interdependent a chance to flourish.

The boundary of Yes is that when you say Yes to yourself, you open the door to a new kind of relationship with others.

This is the surprising message of the actions of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the voting rights movement. It is the universal message that when we set personal boundaries and insist that they be respected, we open the door to relationships that are built on equal rights.

Your Personal Appraisal

  • Do any of your relationships involve an unequal balance of power?
  • How comfortable are you with saying No as part of taking care of your own needs?
  • Are there others in your life who cannot accept your No?
  • What would your life be like if you said Yes to your own needs?

Live Honest, Open and True

When you focus on taking care of yourself, you allow others to take care of their needs. Today, take time to assess your boundaries and whether there is some area of your life where you need to say No in order to open the door to say Yes for a new, more rewarding and equal relationship.

I believe in you and want the best for you and know you can achieve the best for yourself.


Would you share this post?
Tweet: The Surprising Lesson of Martin Luther King, Jr. for all of us. A blog post by D’Anne Hotchkiss

Do you have a have a story to tell about how you set a new boundary and experienced others resistance to this change? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

Related Posts: Honoring Your Boundaries

The Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Lives on in All of Us

What is the Agenda? It’s None of Your Business

No, Don’t Forgive and Forget

Leave a Comment

Filed under Respect

0 Responses to The Surprising Lesson for All of Us from Martin Luther King

  1. Pingback: Yes All Lives, And Black Lives, Matter | LifeIsHOTblog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *