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What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

Have you ever thought about it? What you would do with your life if you weren’t afraid to do it? The grand dreams, the seemingly impossible adventures – always followed with that “but…” and then the reason why it can’t be done. There are always the practical reasons – time, money, obligations – but in the end, most of them come down to fear.

That one thing, that hidden little dream that could make your life big, that thing you would do if only you weren’t afraid – that is the exact thing you should be doing with your life.

I was thinking on this even more yesterday, the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Sometimes I wonder if Dr. King was ever afraid, and feel that surely he was. He had cause to be afraid, and in fact his life ended because of hatred, intolerance and violence. Yet, he lived the life he felt he must, voiced his passions and fought for his beliefs. What would the world be like today if Dr. King had decided he was too afraid to make a stand?

In the last pages of my book I quote Dr. King – not from any of his many eloquent speeches on civil rights, but from his famous 1967 address in a New York City church where he took a stand against the war in Vietnam. The title of my book, in fact, was inspired by a quote from this speech: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

His words are just as relevant today:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’”

Dr. King went on to charge, “The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”

I hope the rest of us will not be too late in making our lives count for something, and will not be too afraid to live with the passion and grandness that our lives call for.

You can listen to Dr. King’s full speech against the Vietnam War here.