The Right Use of Strength

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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After my mother passed away in June 2010, I kept her personal information and papers in a plastic bin.  Whenever I want to feel close to her, I open the bin and read an old letter or leaf through her yearbook.  Each time, I discover a new pearl of wisdom.

Her valedictory speech was among high school report cards and newspaper clippings.  When I picked up the worn papers, one typewritten note fell to the floor; it looked as if she had cut it out of a booklet.  Perhaps she used it in her speech, but the words were vitally important.

“Greatness:  Greatness means service instead of authority, character instead of reputation, giving instead of taking, ministering instead of being ministered unto.  Be a great man or a great woman, but remember this— GREATNESS lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.”

We just commemorated the 80th anniversary of D-Day, where 160,000 allied troops gathered to defeat evil tyranny.  Many soldiers died to keep freedom alive.  Without allies joining hands, soldiers serving, character flourishing, greatness would never have survived.

These men and women, the heroes of my mother’s generation, were not just strong, they were united in their purpose.  They overcame adversities and enemies, leaving behind a legacy of selflessness.  Most have passed on, their lives a testament to the power of sacrifice.  The remaining few are living embodiments of what it means to be honorable.  They believed in defending America at all costs, even if it meant facing death without retreat.

Today, as we stand at the crossroads of our nation’s history, it’s time to ask ourselves if we suffer from amnesia.  Those men and women who united to fight for our future in past wars should inspire us today.  We should be ashamed of our recent behavior as a divided nation.  It’s time to remember the true meaning of “united” and to act upon it.

It’s crucial to recognize that our political views alone cannot save America.  Whether Republicans or Democrats, we must understand that both sides have valid perspectives.  Unity, not division, will lead us to greatness.  How could D-Day occur without harmony among ourselves and our allies?

We have divided ourselves into chaotic sadness.  Many of our government representatives are blame throwers instead of idea seekers.  Is winning a race more important than saving the integrity of a nation?

   Currently, we listen to news that aligns with our opinions instead of eagerly awaiting factual updates on the radio, as they did during World War II.  We often categorize and generalize people and then make judgments.  There is no honor in being closed-minded or judgmental.

What has surprised me, and many others is that we often don’t use history, faith, or gratitude to find peaceful solutions.  History, when understood, can guide us toward avoiding past mistakes.  When practiced with humility and inclusivity, faith can unite us in our shared values.  Gratitude, when sincere, can foster empathy and understanding.

Yet, many replace history with falsehoods spread on the internet.  Faith is set aside for Sunday but perhaps not used on Monday when we condemn those who do not believe as we do.  Showing the world our self-righteous behavior turns many from God’s righteous love.

When Mom graduated in 1936, she told her classmates at the end of her address, “Let us keep our colors ever flying high, face the future boldly, and turn the pilot wheel upon the principles of honor.”

Many of her peers left to fight the enemy soon after graduation without fear or trepidation.  These brave Americans flew no flag other than our nation’s red, white, and blue.  They put aside the political debates, ignored the color of their skin, and prayed together for courage in the battles ahead.  For they knew they would boldly face the cliffs of death together.   They turned the pilot wheel of honor, and we are the beneficiaries of their determination and faith.

How many have heard, “It’s the economy, stupid!” during an election cycle?   Mom and her classmates survived the Great Depression but soon confronted World War II.  As I think about the poverty and fear that wreaked havoc on this nation, it wasn’t the nation’s wealth that saved it.  It was the faith and the united will of the American people.  America’s stability relies not only on our economy; it involves much more.   

Greatness is found when we use our spiritual courage to unite, conquer hate, and achieve peace.

God bless our ancestors for teaching us how to use strength wisely and with dignity.  Let us honor them by following in their brave footsteps.