What Martin Luther King, Jr. taught me about faith


We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.Today we will read words honoring a great man here in the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr. His life changed our perspective and society in ways few have since, and probably ever will.

Since his death more than 50 years ago, his story has become part of our American narrative, a grand picture of destiny and purpose. We extol him as a man of vision who dreams of a better world, in spite of the evil swirling around him.

His name signifies the promise of the heritage he would ultimately come to embrace.

King’s birth name was originally Michael King, Jr. But his father changed both his and young King’s name after returning from a trip to Germany in the 1930s, just after Hitler took power. The elder King was moved by what was unfolding in the homeland of the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther.

Martin Luther quite literally changed the face of Christianity in the 1500s using his powerful words and his sense of destiny.

No pressure, young King.

Both he and Martin Luther King, Jr. became pivot points in Christian history.

Game changers.

And both men were unashamed in living out their purpose and engaging the world they were born into.

To me, Martin Luther King, Jr. embodies all that we can imagine through simple and persistent hope and faith.

Since his death I think King’s life as a great man of faith has gotten a bit lost.

Before he was an activist and master orator for civic change, he was a man who believed that God’s hand was on his life in the most powerful way.

It all starts there.

Few of us will realize our life’s destiny the way King did. He realized his through the lens of his unmoving faith.

  • This kind of resolute faith is what compels you to take action, regardless of risk to life and freedom.
  • This kind of resolute faith doesn’t always make you feel happy about how things are going in your life.
  • This kind of resolute faith can be full of fear at what may lie ahead because you may just be shaking the foundation of institution.

His faith wasn’t something he decided to try out at a self-help seminar one weekend. This was a conviction and a way of life that went to his core.

His ability to speak the truth so powerfully and without apology was rooted in an unshakeable faith in who he was, who his God was and what he knew his God could do.

  • He must have had some desperate thoughts because he was human.
  • He must have struggled to see the full picture ahead because he couldn’t know exactly what the future held.
  • He must have wondered if he was living up to what he was designed for because it wasn’t as easy as he wanted it to be.

What makes him so special in my eyes is not just his inspiring words for change, but his steadfast obedience to his call.

He didn’t allow setbacks to remove him from his destiny. He didn’t allow the daily challenges of living his destiny to pull him away from his purpose.

Where would we be if he had?

King’s legacy is even more important to us today.

For many of us (certainly not all of us), life has become comfortable and entertaining.

We don’t challenge much.

  • We give away one of our greatest assets — our attention — to the day’s lowest common denominators.
  • We expect fairness in all things and demand that life brings us what we need and want or we won’t play.
  • We allow setbacks to steal our hope in one snap of a finger.
  • We invite the words of others who have nothing invested in us to injure us and pierce our peace.
  • We allow the thoughts inside the space of our very own heads to run unchallenged and roughshod over our purpose and steal our destiny from us.

We give in to a victim mentality that demands our circumstances change before we will engage.

This, even as most of us will never be asked to give our lives for our call.

And we wonder why we struggle to find purpose and meaning in our work and personal lives.

In just 39 short years, King showed what a persistent and obedient life of faith can do for millions of people that he would never meet.

Will we do the same in the much smaller sphere of our own lives?

The disconnect in mental health

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The disconnect in mental health

I get to meet interesting people every day. You just can’t imagine what some have gone through.

To look at them, you would never know.

They may look good, smell good, and sound good. But they have faced ugly giants and still somehow find the courage to keep going.

What you must know is that mental health issues are about everyone, in every corner of life.

  • It affects the C-suite executive as much as the individual contributor.
  • It affects the privileged and the economically downtrodden.
  • It affects all of the diverse communities of race, gender, and religion where we live and work.
  • It affects the old, the middle aged, the “quarter aged” and the young.

While our focus as a nation and in our local communities is on opioid addiction, school shootings, suicide and other heartbreaking issues that absolutely require a focused and effective response, much of what we see as professionals is wrapped up in the everyday goings-on of life.

For whatever reason, it’s getting harder and harder for many of us to cope with the daily stress of life at home and at work.

  • Maybe it’s the phones,
  • Maybe it’s too much screen violence,
  • Maybe it’s our general disconnectedness,
  • Maybe it’s D: All of the Above.

But mental health isn’t just about issues. It’s about people who need support from people.

And we people are the only ones who can provide that support. It’s not just the responsibility of your local government, your schools, or your workplace’s HR department.

We all play a role in our society’s mental health issues.

You are the missing piece.




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What’s your story?

What’s your story?

As any Game of Thrones fan will tell you, today’s stories (both fake and real) are powerful and shape attitudes. We root for, or vilify, our favorite characters. We vehemently discuss the ramifications of their decisions as if they were our own neighbors.

We binge on stories like Doritos at the end of a tough week.

But what about your story? Is it too simplistic to think of our lives as a story we tell ourselves?

And does that story make a difference in how you live your life? (Sorry, is that too many existential questions on a Monday?)

We all have a story. And we perform in our lives according to the story we tell ourselves.

Life is sometimes like an Encyclopedia Brown book. Do you remember this delightful series of children’s books?

Encyclopedia Brown was a super smart kid who operated his detective agency out of his parents’ garage and charged a whopping 25 cent fee for his super sleuthing services (this actually seems quite possible today).

After setting about his task of interviewing and gathering intelligence on a case, Encyclopedia Brown arrived at a critical decision point.

At the end of the story, you, the reader, were presented with Brown’s last clue and you, the reader, had to figure out the end of the story on your own. Seems fair. (You could easily flip to the back of the book for the answer, but I didn’t roll like that.)

The clues Encyclopedia Brown uncovered up to that point — and how you interpreted them — determined where you might take the story.

And if you’re little Lori in her little white reading chair by the west window and you’re not just flipping to the back of the book, you can discover a whole realm of new possibilities for the next part of the story.

If the only clues you leave for yourself in your story are negative, or maladaptive, thoughts and perceptions, then how will you advance your story in any meaningful way?

How do you expect that you will get to the end and go, “Ah-ha, yes, I knew it!”

I get it. Most of the time we want to focus on what’s not going right because it’s so tangible. You can feel the bad stuff pretty easily and with very little training.

Maybe those negative clues also remove some of our responsibility as the author of our story. My story stunk because I got bad clues, so yeah….

It’s true that you have no control over the series of events that enter your story. You don’t.

But you can decide 1) to decide something and 2) what decisions to make to keep the story going in a direction that benefits you. You always, always have that power.

If your story has some really painful and hurtful events, this is a lot harder to do, for sure. You have some back story work to do to get to a place where you can make healthy decisions.

But you still have the power to do those two things. Decide and keep going.

With the help of compassionate characters in your story, you can place those events into their rightful place in your narrative.

So, without looking at the back of the book, what will be your story?

Is imposter syndrome a fraud?


Have you heard of this thing called “imposter syndrome?”

Imposter syndrome is the fear of being discovered to be a fraud. You, a competent, accomplished, recognized, high-performing professional.

Outwardly you are crushing it on all levels. But inside your head you’re telling yourself, “Yeeeaaah, it’s basically all a sham. They’re gonna find out soon enough what a big fraud I am. If they only knew! *sigh*”

You stay under constant stress with every project, wondering when the big Scooby Doo reveal moment might happen, leaving everyone pointing and gasping in animated horror.

And so this is how you spend your good mental energy every day: analyzing whether or not you are for real!

I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with how I feel about this one. I’ve certainly struggled with this mindset a lot in my own work life.

Early in my first career in communications, I was the Harbinger of Output. Don’t give me something unless you’re looking to do a silly victory dance with me in the end zone in pretty short order.

There was nothing I couldn’t take and run all the way down the field for you because aptitude is almost never a problem for me (exceptions: math and most likely, brain surgery).

But It took me many years to learn to accept my accomplishments purely at face value: I was, in fact, awesome at my job. At least that’s what people kept telling me.

I seemed always to have a, “Yes, but…” bouncing around in my head. I was unwilling to own my accomplishments and use the little bumps along the way as learning moments.

Instead, I used them to beat myself up, disregarding many of the things that had gone right. I remember always being worried that I had still somehow gravely disappointed people.

Great pattern, Lori. Good times.

So okay fine, imposter syndrome could be a real thing.

But I’m having trouble giving in to the idea of a full blown syndrome.

First of all, we may not need another workplace condition to worry about.

I already have my hands full trying to be one of the 15% who stays engaged, learning to explore my emotional intelligence and trying to keep my “monkey mind” from ruining my day.

So let’s not go looking for another thing to fret about in the workday, shall we?

Second, you’re in good company.

If I peek over the cubicle wall or leer around the corner, I’ll discover plenty of other folks who feel this way. Most of us struggle at some point with competence and skill.

That struggle may be an opportunity to consider investing in some training. This one has always saved me. It’s not that I don’t already know enough to be competent, but educating myself is a super confidence builder. I’m eager to get out there and use my new skills.

It could also be time to look for another position that can challenge you to learn and stretch in different ways.

Sometimes stagnation masquerades as imposter syndrome. If you have enough time to consider your “fraudulent” ways, you may not be challenged enough.

Plus, a job search can engage you to start thinking about your accomplishments and how you can best communicate your great work to others. If you actually snag a new position, you have to fully engage in that new work, which leaves little room for all of this peripheral stuff.

So instead of thinking of yourself as a fraud, you can simply choose to grow.

Third, you can defend yourself against your thoughts.

Let me ask you this. What if someone walked in your office and said, “You know what, sister? I’m on to you! You’re a big fraud! You’ve been fooling us all this time. You aren’t as great as you want us to think you are.”

Would you just sit there and take that? What would you say to that person to challenge those accusations, before you called security? (Feel free to write down what you would say. I’ll bet you would find at least 20 things real fast.)

Then why do you take such unproven accusations from your own thoughts without a fight?

You get to push back on that as hard as you can.

Respond back to your accuser with the reasons why you are great, competent and how you get crap done. (You can use the 20 things from your list. How convenient that you wrote them down!)

I’m being a little cheeky about this, but it really can be that simple. Don’t be lured into thinking you are stuck in a syndrome, especially one of your own making.

Challenge yourself to own and share your accomplishments, keep learning, and use your discomfort as a springboard to the grace and confidence you deserve.


Photo: Creative Commons “The Imposter” by Transport Pixels is licensed under CC BY 2.0