One reason that I greatly admire Lincoln is that he grew as a man and as a leader throughout his life. Always learning. Always growing. He allowed his mind to be expanded and to move towards the truth. He was incredibly strong, and succeeded at any physical challenge. However, feats of strength were not his purpose in life. He was called to much greater things, and that calling required him to grow and learn.
He was academically disadvantaged, but he did not let this slow him down. He had an internal drive, an unquenchable thirst, an irrepressible urge, a focused determination to learn. He read everything he could get his hands on and taught himself what he needed to know so that he could do what he wanted to do.
But Lincoln didn’t just learn the kind of knowledge that comes from books. He also learned many lessons the hard way, as he emerged from one failed endeavor after another. Instead of discouragement and a retreat to the comfortable and easy, Lincoln learned from each disaster and pressed ahead better and stronger.
Lincoln also continued to learn and grow spiritually, right to the end. He was not a classically religious man in his younger years, and in those days of Pharisaic judgments about a man’s religiosity he was even labeled an infidel by his political enemies. However, the anvil of leadership (see 2014 post) coupled with his life’s sorrows gradually molded the quiet non-conformist into a deeper man. A spiritual man. His speeches, personal letters, and private writings all evidenced this shift towards a growing reliance upon God as he found himself at the end of his own strength and understanding. Lincoln knew that in order to carry the heavy burden that he was carrying he needed a Rock, a Comforter, a Guide. He could not do it alone. He had learned that lesson well.
Like Solomon, he needed wisdom to carry the heavy load of leading the people. For Lincoln, the incredible pressure that he faced did not crush him – it turned him to the only source of power that could sustain him. He learned from every mistake, failure, and tragedy. He continued to grow and change and adapt. And he continued to seek the Truth.
On Good Friday, 150 years ago, after a lifetime of learning and growing, Abraham Lincoln was martyred for his beliefs and his actions. His example inspires me to relentlessly pursue learning and growth throughout my life in order to fulfill my purpose. I hope he inspires the same drive in you.
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Printable: | Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address |
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