Striving for Greatness

Another introspective post.


I’m currently watching the History Channel’s epic miniseries, “The World Wars.” It’s fascinating to me to learn that Adolf Hitler was almost killed on the World War One battlefield by a British soldier who had him in his sights when he was wounded. The soldier couldn’t bring himself to kill Adolf. And thus history turned onto its current path.

Something else that struck me was how much struggle some of the great leaders went through before they became great leaders. You can love or despise FDR, Churchill, Patton, or even Hitler, but they all overcame a great deal before they found success. FDR had to overcome polio and learning to stand and walk again. Churchill suffered a huge setback in his decision to send troops to Galliopi and had to reestablish his reputation. Even outside these figures from past wars, time and again we’ve seen it; the extraordinary people who had to struggle against nearly debilitating hardships before they became successful.

On the other hand, how many tales have you heard about somebody who didn’t have any struggle coming oh so easily into greatness?  Let’s see–well I suppose there’s George W. Bush . . . okay maybe not a great example.

Hmm.   Barack Obama? No huge hardships there. But I’m not fully seeing the greatness either.

Hell, even Pope Benedict XVI who wasn’t that great of a pope was briefly a prisoner of war.

So what does all this mean?

I think it means that for parents, we worry too much about providing the “perfect” childhood for our kids. Having a stress-free childhood might be nice, but if history tells us anything, it’s that those who learn to strive against adversity seem to do better in life. It’s that old “no pain, no gain.” If we allow children to take on things, yes, they may fail. They may even fail spectacularly. But it also gives them the chance to succeed.

I think it also better prepares them for the real world, when things aren’t so bubble-wrapped and things can’t be fixed by a cookie or a kiss from Mom. So basically I think in the Western world we need to let ourselves be harsh at times, not stress that life is too tough and that our kids may be struggling against something. In the end, it may lead to greatness.

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