Greatness Comes from Reacting Not Just Acting
In my opinion, there is no greater test of character than rejection and injustice. Our reaction to those events truly reveals our inner greatness or ultimate uselessness. It’s certainly not fare but it is the best method of revealing who we truly are.
I remember many years ago I ran my first marathon. I did not train enough but I participated anyway. Around the 20 mile mark I saw a runner leaning against a chain link fence. They were balling their eyes out. Exhausted and totally empty. I could completely relate to what they were feeling. Whatever reasons I began my marathon had long since laid trampled on the pavement behind me. My pride was gone, my determination and even my positive mental attitude all were casualties of my multi-hour efforts. Though I had no reason to continue I did so purely because it was simple… one foot in front of the next. In the end, I finished… but that was my only accomplishment… completion. My reaction to exhaustion was simple, don’t stop doing the simple thing… shuffling along.
Life and careers however, are not as simple as running. They sometimes require giant levels of focused effort. When all things seem hopeless, simple jogging often times may not be enough. Facing life’s greatest challenges requires a focus on proper attitudes and perspectives. Then, and only then, can effective reactions be formulated. Attitude comes first, wisdom and understanding second. Aligning our attitudes with grace, mercy, humility, service, sacrifice and compassion (along with all the other good attitudes) will eventually produce the great results. Reactions show the world our greatness (or uselessness).
The best attitudes and consequential reactions will always require courage and fortitude. The courage isn’t needed for just a week or a month, its almost always a requirement year over year.
I have a close friend going through a very sad divorce. Their anger may be justified, their rejection is obvious but their reaction to their circumstances is anything but typical. Their focus on their child as well as their own long term well being has given them the vision to react with integrity and valor. It is truly an honor to watch, step by step making right choices at every new situation. Their determination has lasted for nearly a year but it is clear their greatness is already beginning to shine. Its not that they don’t have moments of great sorrow and exhaustion… but they haven’t given up on their path of maturity and don’t seem to be vulnerable to it (at least yet). All-be-it they do have a close friend and mentor who has gone through it before them (a super advantage I admit) but it still takes an independent will to succeed. They themselves make their choices every day. Nobody can take that away from them.
Endurance is the mother of greatness. Perseverance is the seed from which nobility is born. Anyone can endure a few days or weeks, greatness requires resources in years or even decades.
Don’t give up doing what is right. Don’t compromise sound principles for shortcuts and fast times. We can’t water down our characters with the selfish and easy ways of common humanity and think we won’t suffer for it.
True greatness requires proof of endurance, consistent positive and shining reactions in dark times. Its what our children and grandchildren will tell their friends most about us. We overcame dark, hard and perilous challenges.