MLK did not accomplish what he did by spouting novel, groundbreaking ideas. He simply passionately and thoroughly committed himself to principles that most of us agree to and that have been around for millennia. He quoted the prophets of old. He also quoted one of the founding documents of our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal … “ Jefferson fashioned these words from ones like it written by the likes of Hobbes and Locke written a century before. The Enlightenment icons weren’t saying anything much different from what John Ball was saying in the 14th century. And so forth and so back.
I find this worth noting because it’s just too easy to get wrapped up in what is new. I want to be more deeply rooted than that.
Against the Wind
Lately I keep thinking about this quote from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:
No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.
I made some goals for the new year, and one of them is to work on particular virtues each month. Minimally, I hope to study these virtues and perhaps become more aware of how much I do or don’t possess them. Beyond that, if I can manage to improve in them a bit, even better. For January, I picked Respectfulness, and this is where the quote comes in. I’m not sure if I’m making any progress yet, but what I certainly have done is noticed how terribly disrespectful I can be. It has been quite jarring—the frequency with which I notice myself doing or saying something disrespectful.
People always say that acknowledging a problem is the first step. Well I still have half of January left, so here’s to more steps than one! Now that I’ve acknowledged some whats, hopefully I can figure out some whys.