Living Well

March 3, 2010

How Brave are You?

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 9:13 am
Tags: , , ,

During a recent time of recovery from a surgery, I had hours to watch many news casts.  In addition, I am a news hound reading and listening to what is happening in the world.  I am regularly reminded of a war raging inside every person.  From criminals to politicians to corporate CEOs to those involved in all kinds of civic projects, I am reminded of the internal battle over our personal, often selfish, desires.

Aristotle wrote, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.”  The Apostle Paul captures the ultimate essence of this in the book of Romans when he wrote, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  This internal collision, where self discipline and the ache for living out our personal desires intersect, is common to us all no matter our heritage, background or culture.  This intimate battlefield is a battlefield we all have to engage during our lives.

Aristotle pointed to one fact that we must never ignore; we are separated from the animal kingdom by reason and our ability for mastering our desires.  This mastery is not a simple war to wage. Yet if won, it moves us closer to being other focused and living effectively in the day to day.  If we are not able to master ourselves, the desires and pleasures we seek will control us, living little room for valuing people or situations as nothing more than a means to our personal end.  We are more like animals if we follow our instincts only. 

I am not saying we can win all these internal battles by shear willpower.  There are many battles that take trained professionals and advocates to help us make progress and find victory.  We need them to confront us and help us work through sometimes what we cannot overcome alone.

Yet, for many, Aristotle names people brave that seek self-control.  He may be right that those courageous enough to strive against personal desires and self gratification as our highest good are the most valiant warriors.  The consequence of not facing ourselves and controlling emotions and desires in our life can exact a heavy toll on us as well as others.  When our unchecked actions seek to fulfill our desires over the welfare of others, we are apt to leave carnage not only now, but possibly for generations to come.

So we might wonder, “What might be the consequences in my life (and for others) if I am not willing to have some self control?” “What good or bad might be the result of my living without self control?”  “What good, rewards, or benefits might come if I could have victory over selfish ambitions or desires?”  Not easy questions to undertake, yet the reward for having acknowledged and fought them may bring well being and living well now and in the future.

Blessings to you for this day and in this engagement.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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