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Financial Inclusion Thought Leadership

Harnessing the Power to Change Your Name

By John Hope Bryant

Many of you reading this will be familiar with the well-known, oft rehearsed facts of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. He was a native of Atlanta, the son of a Baptist minister, came to prominence at his father and grandfather’s church—the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech” during the March on Washington—the list goes on. 

What you might not know, however, is that the Civil Rights icon we know as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started his life’s journey by another name. Yes—Dr. King was originally introduced to the world as Michael King, Jr.

As the story goes, his father, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. then known as Reverend Mike King, was sent by his church as a delegate to an international meeting of Baptist clergy in Europe. His travels brought him to Germany, the home of the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther. King was so moved by the up-close experience with Luther’s life and dedication to his calling that he was inspired to change his own name to align with his purpose, character, and destiny.

After decades of living with an identity given by his parents and shaped by external influences and society, the newly minted Martin Luther King, Sr. took the radical step to realign his name with a reality and mission greater himself. In fact, the change birthed in Martin King Sr. was so great it reverberated throughout his family, community, and ultimately  the world by touching the life and mission of his son, who would go on to become one of the greatest prophets of the 20th century and a world reformer for the world in his own right. 

Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr. were both aligned with their destinies beginning with the name which they and others called them. In changing their names, they managed their expectations of themselves and spoke to a future which they could see but had not yet realized. Their names spoke powerfully not to who they were but who they were meant to be, despite external conditions and circumstances.  

Similarly, we are challenged by the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to realign ourselves with the God-given future prepared for each of us and metaphorically change our names to match that present-future reality. 

The Bible teaches that “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. Taking that sentiment and importing a present-day cultural phrasing, that verse can be translated as “from the abundance of the mind the mouth speaks.” What does that mean? It simply means that from the convictions of your heart, mind, and soul—your innermost being—you speak what you believe about yourself and the world around you and it shapes your reality.

What are you constantly speaking of and over yourself and your children? Are the words you use about yourself incongruent with the life you’ve dreamed for yourself? Do you use words like “poor”, “disqualified”, “underserved” to describe yourself? Or are you aligning yourself with a mindset that sets you up for a better future and naming yourself accordingly — “empowered”, “informed”, “financially stable”, “independent”, “free”. 

The words you speak over yourself and your family can either be life giving or perpetuate a constant cycle of poverty.  You decide.

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I want to challenge you to reflect and ask yourself if you’re aligned with your purpose and preferred future. What words are you speaking over yourself? How are you naming yourself, your family, and your situation? Are they in step with who you want to become?

At Operation HOPE we believe in the power of a transformed mindset and perspective, the same power harnessed by Daddy King and Martin King, Jr. We believe that poverty is a mindset, and once you break free from its grip you must vow to never, ever be poor again.

Your decision to change your name, as it were, won’t just affect you, but it will change those around you and those who come from you. When you align yourself with your reformed character, mindset, and purpose you have the power to change the world.  You or someone you know can take that first step at transformation by contacting Operation HOPE and finding a Financial Wellbeing Coach in your community who will help cultivate and develop a positive money mindset.

Let’s continue to affect and change the world together, in the spirit of Dr. King and with the singular vision for economic empowerment and a transformed mindset for all.


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