combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove

“…The strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. Not ordinarily do men achieve this balance of opposites. The idealists are not usually realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic. The militants are not generally known to be passive, nor the passive to be militant. Seldom are the humble self assertive or the self assertive humble. But life at its best is a creative syntheses of opposites in fruitful harmony…. truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in the an emerging synthesis which reconciles the two.


Jesus recognised the need for blending opposites. He knew that his disciples would face a difficult and hostile world, where they would confront the recalcitrance of political officials and the intransigence of the protectors of the old order. He knew that they would meet  cold and arrogant men whose hearts had be hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. So he said to them, ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves’. And he gave them a formula for action; ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’. It is pretty difficult to imagine a single person having simultaneously, the characteristics of the serpent and the dove, but that is what Jesus expects. We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart

– Martin Luther King 

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