What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About A Complete Life

January not only marks the start of a new year, but it’s also when many of us will set new goals, begin new lifestyles, start going to the gym, or hop on the latest diet. But, for many of us, the idea of making positive changes in the new year can seem intimidating. Maybe loneliness has grown roots in your life, or you feel stuck in a situation that seems hopeless.

You’re not alone, and as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we can learn valuable lessons to help us find hope again. After all of the hardships he endured, Dr. King was still able to encourage others with how he lived and with the words he spoke. In Dr. King’s speech, The Three Dimensions Of A Complete Life, he helps us understand how to find true, lasting fulfillment.

The Three Dimensions


  1. The length of life is the inward concern for ones own welfare.

“So many people are busy trying to be somebody else. God gave us all something significant and we must pray every day asking God to help us accept ourselves,” he said.

Dr. King goes on to say, “there is such a thing as healthy and rational self-interest.” This inward focus means we are concerned with developing our inner power, discovering our purpose, and accepting who we are, “and when you discover your purpose, set out to do what God has called you to do, with all of the strength and power that we have in our system.”

  1. The breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others.

Once you push through the first dimension of loving and accepting yourself, you can begin to love others better. “Man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,” Dr. King said. 

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, two religious leaders pass by a beaten man on the road, but a Samaritan stops to care for him. Dr. King states that we, too, are often afraid to stop and help. Once having a similar opportunity to help a man, Dr. King asked himself: If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? The Good Samaritan reversed the question: What will happen to that man if I do not stop to help him?

When we get to the end of our lives, God won’t ask how much money we made, or how many awards we received. The question will likely be: “What did you do for others?” 

“We are tied together in life and in the world,” Dr. King said, referring to the fact that “before you get through eating breakfast, you’re dependent on half of the world.”

  1. The height of life is the upward reach for God.

To find success in the first two dimensions, one must set their sights on God, and not on things of this earth. “They [the self-centered] become so involved in thinking about man’s progress that they forget to think about the need for God’s power in history,” Dr. King said. “They end up going days and days not knowing that God is not with them.” 

At the time of this speech, Dr. King had been held in 18 prisons, had his home bombed three times, and even faced death. Yet because of his faith, he could still say, “Today, I can face any man and any woman with my feet solidly placed on the ground and my head in the air because I know that when you are right, God will fight your battle.”

His hope came from a constant reliance on God, especially during those times in prison where all he could do was pray, think, and reflect. Dr. King urged his listeners to search for God in all things. “We were made for God, and we will be restless until we find rest in him.”

In his concluding remarks, Dr. King instructs us to, “Love yourself, love your neighbor as you love yourself, and love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and strength. When you do that you can walk and never get weary.”

Next steps:

  1. Listen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech The Three Dimensions Of A Complete Life.
  2. Consider joining one of our Growth Track courses. The Inside Track, Rooted, and Freedom can help you to build a strong spiritual foundation while discovering the purpose God has for you. 
  3. Get connected in community by joining a small group.