Monday, October 17, 2016

Election Advice from John Wesley

From Wesley's journal:  October 3, 1774:

 I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and  advised them:
 1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most  worthy.
 2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against.
 3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on  the other side.

The Failure of Short Term Optimism

On September 6, 1965, Admiral James Stockdale’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Viet Nam. The injured Stockdale found himself captured and imprisoned in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was the highest ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in the Viet Nam war.

 Stockdale was kept in solitary confinement for four years, placed in irons for two years, denied medical care and malnourished. Despite these terrible conditions, he led an “underground resistance movement” which brought hope and a sense of esprit de corps to his fellow POW’s. Still, many prisoners died under these grueling circumstances. Finally, in 1973, the brave admiral was released, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor is 1976 by President Ford.

 Several years later, author and researcher, Jim Collins, interviewed Stockdale in the campus of Stanford University, and asked the decorated offer how he coped with the demoralizing effects of his imprisonment.

 Stockdale replied, “I never lost faith in the end the end of the story. I never doubted that not only would I get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

 Then, Collins asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”

 "Oh, that’s easy,” Stockdale responded, “The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

 Now, I certainly believe in optimism. The title of my newspaper column, “Positively Speaking”, speaks to that. However, I believe Stockdale was right.

 A misplaced, short term optimism can lead to failure and disillusionment. It’s much better to focus on the long term.

 Somehow
 Some day
 Some way
 I’m going to make it.

 Things may not go as I’ve expected or desired, but I’m not going to let a few temporary setbacks keep me from my ultimate destiny. Rarely, does a person follow a straight path from success to success. Usually, there’s quite a winding road, replete with failures, frustrations, shortcomings, and disappointments.

 The important thing is to keep plugging on, regardless of the short term circumstance. Eventually, you’ll find your way.

 Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Measure of Character


Character matters -- and the way we treat and speak about others is character's best measurement.  Civility, unfortunately, is becoming an increasingly rare virtue in our society.  The divisive rhetoric in our land is increasing, and does nothing to bring us together.  The bridge of understanding is built through mutual respect.

 A big part of maturity is learning to disagree agreeably, and treating people with kindness, even if they don't share our values.

 Recently, I ran across this piece from an unknown poet which captures this ideas.  Though it was penned over 70 years ago (long before authors knew about inclusive language), the point certainly fits for our day and age:

 The man's no bigger than the way
 He treats his fellow man;
 This standard has his measure been
 Since time, itself, began!

 He's measured not by tithes or creed
 High-sounding though they be;
 Not by the bold that's put aside;
 Not by his sanctity;

 He's measured not by social rank,
 When character's the test;
 Nor by his earthly pomp or show,
 Displaying wealth possessed

 He's measured by his justice, right,
 His fairness at his play,
 His squareness in all dealings made,
 His honest, upright way.

 These are his measures, ever near
 To serve him when they can;
 For man's no bigger than the way
 He treats his fellow man.