American activist and Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr. spent years building his name and his integrity. He is best known for his efforts in advancing civil rights with non-violent civil disobedience, which is based on his Christian beliefs.
Through the years and even after he passed, Martin Luther King continues to show us that activism is not all about rallies and violent acts on the road. He continues to shows us that using our voice and pushing for what we believe is right and what will benefit the majority is one of the most important things we can do.
Martin Luther King also constantly shares wise words and through his words, more and more people today are inspired to become a better person than they were yesterday, and to appreciate every bit of power given to us as human beings, and all the little things that complete this world.
Because, after all, there’s no such thing as a grand achievement if you didn’t have small achievements. And there’s no better person to remind us about it than Martin Luther King.
We’ve thus assembled the 25 finest MLK quotes for you to enjoy and reflect on.
1. On Acting with Kindness
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
When trying to deal with difficult people, we can often tend to choose the taste your own medicine technique. Sure, sometimes it’s great that they are treated as bad as they’re treating others, but there are instances when the best way to deal with such kind of people is to do the opposite. Remind them that even though their attitude is poor, they still deserve kindness. Only then will they realize to be kind too.
2. On Using Your Voice
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~Martin Luther King Jr.
When the world is in chaos and when we are in a heated debate or dealing with a pressing issue, it’s easier to just keep silent. But always remember that you’re given a voice for a reason. Not to keep blabbering but to contribute your ideas and your voice. Living won’t happen until you actually take action and make use of that life, that voice, that human power.
3. On Sticking with Love
I have decided to stick to love… Hate is too great a burden to bear. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
There’s so much hate in this world for us to add our own, but hate seems to be an easier emotion. So don’t ask why people tend to hate so many things. But this doesn’t mean we should all consider sticking with hate. In fact, this means the opposite. Love may not be an easy emotion to give or to express, but the more we express it, the better we’ll feel. Because hate does nothing but add weight and burden to us.
4. On Knowing Faith
Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
To be faithful is not easy at all, but being faithful whether to a person, to a spirit or to your aspirations, that’s important. Faith will take you to places you never thought existed, and it will remind you of the beautiful things you can get only if you’re patient and if you strongly believe in something. Good things don’t always fall on your lap. Sometimes, you gotta take faith with you and find those good things.
5. On Being a Good Friend
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Finding great friends whom you can trust fully is easier said than done. Thus, this Martin Luther King quote reminds us to always be that good friend. To be a better man isn’t only about being a better person to yourself, but more especially to others. Don’t leave others behind when you know they need you. Don’t stay silent when you know your friends could use a brave voice like yours. You’d want to be remembered as the rare, good friend, not the enemy.
6. On Keep Going
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
This is probably one of the most famous quotes of Martin Luther King, and why not? It’s a simple quote that inspires us to keep pushing forward. Plan A may not work and you may not have a plan B, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is you choosing to keep going despite the confusion or failure. What matters is not only where you got but also how you got there. It’s not always easy to do but definitely worth it.
7. On Seeing Beauty in Everything
Only in the darkness can you see the stars. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
When stuck in a bad situation, most people see everything as bad, awful, shameful. And don’t worry, because this is inevitable. But if you play with your lens and try to focus on the beautiful things, moving past the bad situation would be easier. Feeling sad or angry is okay, but feeling such emotions for too long isn’t going to help. Find beauty in your bad situation. Keep in mind that no matter how bad a situation is, there’s always something good about it.
8. On Ignorance and Stupidity
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
There’s a fine line between ignorance and stupidity. And it’s a very fine, thin line, so don’t kick yourself if you always feel stupid. Good men do feel stupid from time to time. And sometimes, this feeling of stupidity is actually a feeling of sincere ignorance and you’re just being too hard on yourself. To move through this crazy world, you’ll need both stupidity and ignorance, but be sure that’s conscientious stupidity and sincere ignorance. And you’ll be fine.
9. On True Education
Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, we’re not saying ditch college. A degree and a diploma are still very important. But keep in mind that learning in classrooms don’t guarantee that you’ll come out as a better person. Even those who didn’t go to school at all are good people. Because they use the intelligence innate in them, and they practice to be good people. They mould their good characters, and that’s exactly what you should be doing too.
10. On Dying for Something
A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
How would you want to be remembered when you die? Are you willing to risk your life for far more important things or for people you love? It’s easy to ask these questions but it’s a lot harder to do. However, it’s important that you find that person or thing that you’re willing to die for. This is not a matter of life and death; this is about putting others before you and valuing them so much you’d rather for them to live than you.
11. On Acknowledging More Important Things
No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
This is quite similar to the previous quote, but we can’t stress out enough how vital it is that you find the wonderful things or people you’re willing to die for. We’re not saying take a bullet for them. We’re saying it’s a good practice to give worth to others than just focusing on you, you, you. Acknowledge the fact that self-love is just as important as valuing the people close to you. Because you won’t survive this world on your own, and there are probably others willing to die for you.
12. On Learning Forgiveness
Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Just like apologizing, it’s not easy to truly forgive someone. It’s a lot easier to just stay mad because it seems to be an easier emotion. However, too much madness can be heavy. Thus, it’s good to know how forgiveness plays in our lives. It’s important to know that while forgiving isn’t easy, giving it to others who deserve it isn’t only good for them but for you too. It’s a freeing feeling we can all take advantage from.
13. On Keeping Hope
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
In the kind of society we live in, being hopeful and staying hopeful is not easy. There are so much temptation for us to just give up, turn our backs and find other things or adventures to focus on. However, doing this repeatedly will probably get you nowhere. Thus, consider accepting the fact that disappointment will always be there, but at the same time, hone the hopeful in you. The only way to achieve whatever you want to achieve is to keep believing in it.
14. On Looking for Happiness
Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Or rather, on not looking… everything we need is one click away. If you know where to find what you’re looking for, you’ll surely find it. But not happiness. Instead of spending years trying to figure out the best place to find happiness, why not spend time building it from within you? Because happiness isn’t something you’ll get in a click. And definitely not something you need to find. Happiness is something you have to build from within and share with others.
15. On Choosing When to be Silent
There comes a time when silence is betrayal. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Silence is important and it’s just as powerful as our voices. But silence can be tricky. Choosing when to speak up and use your voice and choosing when to stay silent is a lot harder than most people think. And there’s no easy answer to it either. Sometimes, even when the situation calls for your voice, choosing silence is better. This is only when you can prove to the world that you’re strong enough to choose what is right rather than what is trending.
16. On Focusing on What is Yours
No person has the right to rain on your dreams. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
There’s a fine line between sharing your opinion about someone’s decision or choice, and trying to discourage them. And apparently, more and more people want to do the latter. What is with discouraging people and pulling them down? No matter how insane their dreams and goals may sound, no matter how risky, leave them be. Don’t try to discourage them just because you don’t have a big goal for yourself. Be a man instead of an annoying kid in the park.
17. On Doing What You Love
The time is always right to do the right thing. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Having goals and acknowledging your goals is one thing. Actually working the work is another. Once we figure out these goals, we love to share it to others, but keep in mind that nothing will happen until we start doing the work. Quit waiting for the right time because the right time is always now. If you’ll tell yourself you will start tomorrow, what makes you think you will actually start when you’ve been telling yourself that for many weeks now?
18. On Managing Your Expectations
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
For most of us, when we love, we love hard. When we offer something a morsel of us, we end up offering our entire selves. And while there’s nothing wrong here, managing emotions and expectations is a little difficult. So when you love hard or when you dedicate so much of your time to some big goal and it didn’t work out, don’t hate yourself. Don’t ask why the fall was so painful. It’s inevitable.
19. On Contributing
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others? ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
In the kind of generation we live in, more often than not people are so consumed with taking. We take and take and take everything free that we can find. But hey, just a reminder… it’s not all about taking. When was the last time you contributed to others? When was the last time you did something not for yourself but for the people around you, without asking for anything in return? Keep in mind that nothing can be better that doing something for others.
20. On Breaking The Rules
One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
We’re not encouraging you to keep driving even when the light is clearly red. What we’re saying is when you’re caught up in a circumstance that involves following insane rules, you should do what is right. Which is to not follow it. We’re all given the power to make rules, so this world is literally filled with good rules and bad rules. A good man’s job is to determine these rules and when the unjust is pinpointed, wear your brave suit and disobey it.
21. On Acting Upon It
The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Sure we understand how some situations are so delicate many choose to stay in one corner in silence. Some situations are too loud that many choose to do the same. Which is pretty much doing nothing. Chaos and violence and debates, those things aren’t pretty. Are you going to just sit and do nothing, waiting for whatever chaos to be solved, or are you going to act upon it and contribute?
22. On Choosing Between Selfishness and Selflessness
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Being selfless is something we all want to be. I don’t think there’s a person who doesn’t want to be remembered as a kind man who always puts other people first. But this is easier said than done. And more often than not, we find ourselves walking the path of selfishness. Don’t hate yourself for this. It happens. But each time you notice you’re walking on the wrong path, you can choose to either keep walking on that path or move to a different one.
23. On Loving Everyone
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
We’re always told to love our enemies. In fact, this is repeated so much that many people think it’s a joke or a trick advice. It’s not. Spreading love and learning how to love everyone is difficult yet vital. But most important of all, it’s a habit that will transform you from being a mere human to a person worthy of love and respect. A human many people will idolize. And the best part is, loving your enemies might just end with them being your friends.
24. On Knowing Morals
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Good ethics is hard to find these days. Good ethics that always leads to justice and righteousness is so hard to find, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to develop it. Being on the side of righteousness and justice can only be achieved if you’re a man of good ethics, and there’s no such thing as right time to practice it. Every single day, you get the chance to develop morals and good ethics.
And the last of the MLK Quotes… 25. On Doing What You Can Do
If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Please stop chasing great things. Please stop trying to impress people that you did this super grand thing and now they should praise you. Because you will likely spend years building this grand thing. And I’m not saying that’s wrong. But more often than not, the more we focus on doing grand things, the less we do the small things that are equally necessary and equally grand in their own way. Consider focusing on small things instead, and work on them with all your heart.