As a therapist, we work to help people grow and achieve healthy goals. Practically speaking, this means you need two things in order to keep growing.

First, you need to choose a goal that is ambitious, fulfilling, and meaningful.

Second, you need to figure out what hindrances are in your way from achieving this goal, and focus your energy not on the goal, but on removing those hindrances. Once you do, the path towards your goal tends to be much more effortless.

On this day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember what he did, what he believed, and the example he set for future generations.

THE GOAL is still his “I have a dream” speech. It is a dream of equanimity and justice. We aren’t there yet, obviously, proven by the fact that America just elected a racist as President immediately after we elected the first person of color President.

THE HINDRANCE is still what he described in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” where he wrote to sympathetic White clergy about his frustrations with them. Specifically, it is when people who have the greatest ability to make change choose personal comfort over justice:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Positive peace is the presence of justice. It requires your discomfort because all change, including change for the better, requires discomfort.

So I wish for you great discomfort on MLK Day today and every day thereafter until his dream comes true.

Written by Joseph Lee, M.D.

I'm a Psychiatrist in private practice in Redondo Beach, CA. I completed both medical school and residency training at UCLA. My practice is psychotherapy based with a health-oriented focus on personal growth and wellbeing. I also teach about mental healthiness and advocate for social emotional learning (SEL) in all contexts.

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