Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Family Rules for Life

These ten core values have guided the King family through generations of triumph and tragedy.

The niece of Martin Luther King Jr. shares lessons learned from family members, her prayers for the future and ten core values that have guided her family through generations of triumph and tragedy.

I never expected to live past the age of 50.

As a product of the 20th century civil rights movement, I experienced the trauma of having three of my relatives die violently, two of whom didn't reach the age of 40. I'm absolutely amazed and honored to have lived over 60 years; although through trials and triumphs, the years have passed more swiftly than I would have wished.

The Civil Rights Movement and God's Sovereignty

When I was a young girl, the world was in turmoil. Yet, thanks to the grace of God for giving me a loving and protective family, I seemed not to have had a care in the world.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks in Selma, Ala.

We were faced with the battles of that era: civil rights struggles with bombs exploding on our doorstep, a looming war in Vietnam and cultural and moral turmoil.

Yet, there was always a comforting presence of a sovereign God, often expressed through the reality of the American credo back then: "In God we trust." That credo was very closely aligned with Mark 11:22: "Have faith in God."

In those days, the Bible and everyday wisdom seemed to flow from the same fountain.

Learning from the Forefathers of the King Family

I can remember my forefathers teaching me Bible truths: my grandfather, my father (Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King), and Uncle Martin Luther King Jr.—all baptist preachers. I didn't realize it then, but they all lived out the truth of Proverbs 22:6: "Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

I tried to run away from the foundations and faith of my fathers. There were many mistakes, and yet there was always victory when I came back to God.

My uncle and my father knew injustice. They, like millions of other African-Americans, needed no introduction to it; injustice greeted them virtually every day of their lives. But, they also knew peace in their hearts, the peace that surpasses all understanding. And from this peace, they sought and achieved a modicum of justice for the masses.

10 Life Lessons from the King Family

I write about many of these experiences in my book, King Rules. In it, there are 10 rules of spiritual and moral conduct that will help any person, young or old. My daddy, uncle, aunt and those before and after them, including me, grew up learning and practicing these rules from the elders of our family.

  1. Make home a priority.
  2. Serve your family.
  3. Get a good education.
  4. Guard your heart.
  5. Defend life.
  6. Fight for justice.
  7. Care for the needy.
  8. Work for peace.
  9. Build the beloved community.
  10. Find your joy.

Responding to the World with God's Word

Still today, we live in a corrupt world. And how should we respond? God's Word teaches us not to repay evil with evil.

Jesus exemplified His teaching that we must overcome evil with good even as He was unjustly arrested by the Romans. When Peter took up a sword and cut off the high priest's slave's ear, Jesus commanded, "Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword" (Matt. 26:52).

Then, with compassion, Jesus healed the wounded servant who had come with the crowd to arrest Him. That's a higher frequency of goodness that we should tune into our hearts: love overcoming hate.

As men of God and students of history, Uncle M.L. (Martin Luther King Jr.) and my dad understood that violence begets violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Violence is often born of rage. And rage destroys—not only neighborhoods but also lives. Rage is born of hate. And hate does not seek the truth, but rather spawns victims. And victims seek other victims to make them suffer as they've suffered. Hurting people hurt people. And on and on and on, souls fall toward a yawning abyss.

As Uncle M.L. wrote in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral." But inspired by 1 Corinthians 13 and believing that love never fails, he also wrote that "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Alveda's Hopes and Prayers for the Future

Today, as a seasoned and tried-in-the-fire elder living in the 21st century, I embrace you, my peers, with the love and encouragement that our latter days will be even more blessed than our former days.

As we approach the days ahead, there is a need to pause in our preparing to move even further into our golden years. We must always give thanks to God for life itself and for allowing us to live productive lives.

My prayer is that we love truth and that in loving truth, we seek it. Once finding truth, we seek justice. And once finding justice, we enjoy peace.

As Uncle M.L. said, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."

This article is courtesy of Mature Living Magazine. Learn more about Dr. Alveda King and her book, King Rules.

Alveda King is a grateful mother and grandmother, former college professor, stage and screen actress and presidential appointee. She is the author of several books, including King Rules.