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Awakening to spiritual consciousness engages the heart as the operating system to process life and make connections that involve commitment. In a society, we tend to make an agreement within ourselves, an agreement that says the nature of connection is worth speaking about, acting on, and promoting.
Seeking social justice requires commitment. In the Bible in Luke 14:28, Jesus spoke to crowds: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (New International Version http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/14.htm). When facing challenges of a heart commitment, no matter how simple or how daunting, we must answer the question of whether or not we will see it through, regardless of the odds of success.
Ego will chime in to fulfill its purpose to protect, many times with “common sense” prods and pleas: “Hey, you’re not making enough money; you’re only helping a few; you’re causing problems; you need to quit now.”
Heart would simply say something like this: “All in!” This doesn’t mean questions, doubts, fears, ridicule, persecution, or hosts of other oppositions won’t appear. They will. Counting the cost means we are all in, we will face challenges, and we will enthusiastically, passionately, and intelligently engage life — on our own terms. All in means we move onward and upward.
Counting the Cost: If It’s Not All in, It’s Not Heart!
I wonder how often Dr. Martin Luther King was faced with his own ego-energy to just quit for his own safety, well-being, and peace of mind. In his “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” he counted the cost of living his Heart-truth.
Dr. King and his people had been fed empty promises, and in patience and love, they acknowledged the difficulties and continued: “Like so many experiences of the past we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. …We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved” (King 3). He counted the cost realistically in terms of emotions and possible physical and legal ramifications. Counting the cost means preparing for eventualities, and for those dear souls, it meant having sufficient reasoning and sufficient rehearsal to be able to react appropriately to reprehensible ego responses.
No safety net, no part left out from under possible squishing. Knights of the Heart have counted the cost and are all in! (Photo by James Pond on Unsplash)Why would anyone subject themselves to such possibilities? Because they count the cost and determine that equality, love, and facing the challenges of the future together are worth every possibility of the retaliation and opposition of ignorant, ego-soaked souls.
Dr. King values the freedom he feels in his soul, but he experiences the spirit of slavery from an ego-guided society of white-controlled power, wealth, and superiority over minorities.
Therefore, Dr. King, knowing the fellowship and way of the Heart, engages in a four-step process of nonviolent campaigns, which are these: 1. Collection of the facts of injustice: “Birmingham[’s]…ugly record of police brutality…unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts…unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches” (King 3). 2. Attempts at negotiation: in“negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants — such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores…[therefore we] agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstrations…[t]he signs remained” (King 3). 3. Self-purification , which involves the concept of counting the cost because that is exactly what this step is about: “We started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?’ ‘Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?’” (King 3). 4. Direct action: sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and peaceful demonstrations.
The facts of injustice had been collected in plain sight: “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States…police brutality…unjust treatment…in the courts…unsolved bombings.” Make no mistake here, please. Many would not then and do not even now call this injustice. Their judging ego, which seeks to isolate from the Other, creates barriers that are mistakenly believed to be for safety. Ego would prompt them to say African Americans suffered because of their own choices and actions. Choices and actions, however, are affected by the definitions of the controllers of society. They define what is safe, what is for the common good (their good), and what just treatment, rights, and freedoms are.
They could go to their white laws, to Supreme Court decisions like Plessy vs. Ferguson, and even Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and say they had given freedoms to the black population. However, the fact that the above practices, not exceptions , of injustice remained show that ego reigned and reigns still.
Legislation can neither change ego-perceptions to heart-energy nor can it create morality. However, legislation can and should protect from ego actions that contradict the rights Jefferson and others outlined in founding documents. Heart actions and laws work toward resolutions, true peace, and human dignity in our connections and interrelatedness with one another.
Dr. King’s policy and practice of nonviolent direct action catalyzed heart-energized souls to be able to claim freedom, live in it, and pursue happiness. He pursued the step of negotiation, because he knew direct action would expose ego-energies and mean even greater challenges for his people. He and other leaders decided on several occasions to postpone protests to see if white power players would keep their word. They didn’t.
What were the simple requests for which they negotiated? To remove the “Whites Only” or “No Negros Allowed” type signs. When I was young, I witnessed these for myself in rural southeast Missouri, and I remember my confusion and eventual anger. It’s too bad we do not maintain youthful innocence about life.
No one wins if ego is enacted and favored when heart should be heard. Law and order should exist to limit ego bullshit. Law and order does not mean to force everyone to live up to the standards of a white, egoic power structure. Whites do not get to say how protests should occur — when, where, and what actions are acceptable or not.
I’m not referring to 1963 only; it has happened in St. Louis, Missouri, within the past few years: “They don’t get to block the highway like that. They have areas to protest in. They should not be in the mall.” This is sheer, egoic racism predicated on the superiority of one race.
We should count the cost of taking heart action, creating purpose, and living it in vision, mission, and daily goals. Dr. King did, as well as hosts of others. If they hadn’t, segregation would still be more the norm than it is now. The step of self-purification meant that protestors of Dr. King’s time had to face the questions of “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” If they couldn’t, they were discouraged from direct participation. If they were like those listening to Jesus in Luke 14, those who couldn’t face ego challenges would be those who stopped short of all-in heart work. Stopping short is ego work. It’s not wrong; it’s just deficit in terms of personal happiness. Ego-based rule creates unhappiness and hinders true freedom, and it enacts unjust laws.
On pages 7–9 of the “Letter…,” Dr. King points out the distinction between just and unjust laws. He says, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust” (King 7). Unjust laws are no laws at all, and as such should be acted against and protested against in order to raise awareness and overturn them. They should never be obeyed under the facade of keeping law and order, for they are only a control mechanism for those who through ego crave power, wealth, and control. Unjust laws are to be disobeyed. Dr. King and his followers entered into nonviolent direct action.
Dr. King makes it clear “that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action.” However, many would say they were irresponsible because many judged using ego instead of heart. The results of the direct action? They are well-known in the big picture. Dr. King understood and perceived the effects such work would have on society.
Counting the cost is an integral component of awakening to spiritual consciousness. In society, operating based on heart means connections with the Other matter. When we work to enact unbiased laws and policies, we seek social justice that protects the rights of all and works for the common good — not a “benevolent” 1%. Social justice begins internally, and the cost is greatest to ego. That’s not an easy challenge. It’s never finished; however, that produces a creative tension to move onward and upward.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!