There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.  — Elie Wiesel

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[This week’s Words of Wisdom and Quote of the Week are given in tribute to the third President of The United States, Thomas Jefferson, on his birthday (13 April 1743)]

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truth without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” — Thomas Jefferson

 

Sir John Dalberg-Acton, aka Lord Acton, famously posited, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Moreover, he added, “Great men are almost always bad men.”  To be sure, Lord Acton’s claim is bearish, even to the pessimist.  In these remarks, the baron affords us very little hope – might we call it an “eye of the needle(s)” chance – of rising to power without forsaking our virtue.  Well, if he is right, the obvious question is:  Why?  Why is it so difficult for one to attain power without succumbing to – its power?

It’s a common theme, is it not?  We rise, and we fall.  Countless authors, artists, composers, filmmakers, etc., have captured the torment, isolation, and exile that hounds the mighty, the powerful, amidst their nosedive into the abyss.  Given the fact – can we call it that? – this is so common, why have we permitted history to repeat itself?  Why do we acquiesce?  Is power simply too powerful for man to bridle?  Is it the ‘bronc that won’t be broke’?  Or, is it, perhaps, that we haven’t taken the right approach?  What do we need to control, or check power?  I submit, wisdom.  But not just any wisdom.  Source matters.

I found an answer, where I often do:  my Bible.

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  [James 3:13-18]

The following is an excerpt from a Charles Spurgeon devotional he wrote in summation of Matthew 15:21-28 – The Faith of the Canaanite Woman.  A dear friend of mine shared the quote (below) and I located and read the entire devotional piece at:

http://www.heartlight.mobi/view.php?resource=se&date=0327&dateformat=md

If you have a few moments, I would recommend you read the entire piece, as well as, Matthew 15:21-28, for context.

This is the royal road to comfort.  Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair;  but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace.

These are wise words, spoken/written by a wise man.  Spurgeon reminds us Christ has unimaginable power in overcoming anything we might consider impossible.  After all, Christ overcame The Cross.  We often quote from scripture (i.e. Philippians 4:13) “I can do everything through (H)im who gives me strength,” but perhaps we sometimes forget, He can do all things!

Have faith, my friends, in Jesus.  At your lowest point, seek Him in the midst of your darkness, for He is nigh.  Think “great thoughts of Christ.”

Project Perfection

[Note – This entry was inspired by my mother who has long exhorted me to be a “better” person, the best person I could possibly be.]

benjamin_franklin_portraitIn his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin acknowledged he set out at an early age to attain “moral Perfection,” only to ultimately conclude it was not something to be achieved.  That said, he also believed he was better off for having made the attempt.  I find Mr. Franklin’s pursuit highly commendable. To have been so profoundly concerned with an unequivocal morality, to have set so lofty a goal and held himself to such account, speaks volumes as to the merits he attributed to one’s character.

Mr. Franklin embarked on what he described as a “bold and arduous Project” to identify the standard for – and achieve – perfection.  He was, after all, an avid and accomplished scientist and inventor, was he not?  Hence he compiled a list of 13 Virtues and developed a report card of sorts, to annotate those times he failed to meet a standard for any given virtue.  He would literally record his daily missteps.

Imagine doing that today.  I, personally, don’t think I would be pleased with my results.  My scorecard would likely compare to a really bad day on the golf course.  Then, again, who’s keeping score?  Well, Mr. Franklin did, and he found he could not pass his own test.  Oh, he wanted to, and he tried really hard – probably harder than most – yet, ultimately, even inevitably, he fell short. Regardless, he believed he was a better person, a better member of society, for having set course and sailed.

What follows are the 13 Virtues Mr. Franklin identified and his corresponding definitions.  Some of mine are on his list; some are not.  I encourage you to create your own lists and endeavor to hold yourselves to account.  Mr. Franklin, by his own admission, was imperfect.  Not one of us has, nor ever will achieve perfection over the course of our lives; hence, we will always live in an imperfect world.  But, if we embrace a greater sense of purpose, aspire to be people of great character, and resolve to inspire others to do the same, our society will be “better” than it otherwise would.  Now, if that could be our legacy!

As Mr. Franklin said, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.”

  • Temperance.  Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • Silence.  Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order.  Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution.  Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality.  Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • Industry.  Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity.  Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice.  Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation.  Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness.  Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloathes, or habitation.
  • Tranquility.  Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity.  Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  • Humility.  Imitate Jesus and Socrates.