Lincoln on Patience

After his death a drawer was discovered in the white house with dozens of letters written by Abraham Lincoln. Letters to his Cabinet Members, Senators, Generals, Friends, family members – and all of the letters had one distinct tone to them. They were letters of extreme anger, resentment, hatred, and disappointment. He scolded the people in these letters in ways you would not even speak of at the time. However, there was another really interesting twist to the story. All of these letters were in sealed envelopes, stamped, and ready to be sent out – but they never made it past his desk.

Later it was discovered in one of Lincolns diary’s that the letters were not sent on purpose. This is how Lincoln would practice his patience. Every time someone made him mad – rather than lash out at them in the heat of the moment – he would remove himself from the situation – write a stern letter expressing exactly how he felt – and if he felt the same way the next morning – he would send the letter. However, if by the next morning his temperament had been cooled – and he was able to think clearly on the matter – he would not send the letter. Which explains all of the sealed envelopes in his drawer.

This taught me a lot about how one of the greatest leaders that ever lived managed his patience. Lincoln over the decades has been transformed into an indestructible, brilliant, perfect human being. Well, this story really helped me learn why he was so special. He was special because he wasn’t indestructible, or perfect, or a genius savant. No – he was human. It taught me that he felt anger, resentment, hatred – just like we all do. What made him amazing was his ability to deal with these feelings on a consistent basis. He knew the importance of expressing his anger – but not without giving his mind the ability to think clearly on the matter.

This is how he practiced his patience and showed his empathy toward anothers position. So many of us (myself included) are quick to judgment – quick to speak – quick to express the first thought on our minds – for good or bad. I’m not saying we all start writing letters every time someone pisses us off – but – it couldn’t hurt to walk away for 10, 12, 24 hours and re-evaluate the situation. If a man who was in charge of a country tearing itself to shreds in one of the bloodiest wars ever fought – found time to be patient with those around him – I know there isn’t a single situation any of us can recall or be in which would require us to loose our patience and act on it immediately.

Slow down…walk away…think…feel…act!

Note by Fahad Hassan


~ by shanemccarty on March 23, 2009.

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