There are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
In September 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a group of leaders attending a training seminar at Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. As he did in a number of speeches around that period, King concluded his remarks with some thoughts on the word maladjusted. The expression, King pointed out, was the latest and greatest buzzword of modern psychology.
While King acknowledged that living a well-adjusted life was a worthy ambition, he preferred to remain maladjusted to oppression. What’s more, insisted King, he did not intend to adjust his stances against segregation, discrimination, economic injustice, militarism, or physical violence. Instead, he aspired to follow the examples of such maladjusted individuals as Amos, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Jesus Christ—great leaders who refused to adjust their values or ignore the societal evils of their days.
As our nation celebrates the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I can think of no better way of honoring his memory than by accepting the challenge he offered his followers in 1957:
I call upon you to be maladjusted.”
Whether they’re battling oppression in the world, confronting inequities in their communities, or questioning the status quo at work, the best leaders dare to be maladjusted. Won’t you?
“The world is in desperate need of such maladjustment,” King told his audience that late summer day more than a half century ago. Indeed, the world still is today.
George Brymer is author of Vital Integrities and the creator of The Leading from the Heart Workshop®.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Sources: en.wikipedia.org