. . . no man is great if he thinks he is. – March 1, 1929 Will Rogers
This one sentence said a lot about people in Will’s day but maybe even more so in today’s world. In a nutshell, anyone who thinks they are great aren’t! It is as simple as that. Thinking that you are great will almost certainly assure that your greatness is in your mind only. The really great people all the way from Moses through Lincoln and beyond never assumed they were meant for greatness.
There are several conditions that lead to thinking you are great. Some call it ego, some say it is “getting a big head”, some are just too full of themselves to see the real greatness around them. Sports jocks and entertainers seem to fall into this condition most frequently. Look at Elvis or Michael Jackson to see how they spiraled into drugs because they let people convince them they were great. I am not at all attuned to the sports world but it seems there is a fallen athlete almost every month.
Humility is, at least in my mind, a precursor to true greatness. Einstein never took himself too seriously and never lost his talent of talking with ordinary people. He enjoyed a conversation with his barber (yeah he actually had one) as much as with fellow scientists. Will Rogers, a personal hero of mine, never looked on himself as anything but a half-breed cowboy who happened to have a way with words and making others smile. Yeah, he made a lot of money, especially as it was during the Great Depression, but he never got a big head over it.
Thinking you are great versus actually being great is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in politics today. Given the millions of dollars that need to be raised and the months if not years required in campaigning it is hard to see where a truly great humanitarian could end up or for that matter even want to be president. The only ones who seem to want to endure the pains to be president are those who think they are great. Is it even possible for truly great people to end up leadership roles in our government today?
The final area I want to talk about on this topic is religion. There are just too many preachers and theologians in the religious community who are convinced that they are great. I spent pretty much three years of my life studying one after another seeking the great ones. There are so many of them who think they are great that they come to believe that their opinions of theological matters are the only ones that are correct. In other words, they are convinced that they alone have the true knowledge of God. Talk about having a big head!! Yes, there are a few who have the humility to be great but they seem to be very much the exception rather than the rule in today’s religious world. Just look at all the fallen TV evangelists the last few years to see examples of what I mean. Then there are other so called religious leaders such as Bin Laden who are nothing but fanatics dressed in religious robes. Religion is getting a bad rep lately because of all these types of guys. We need to get back to the pure and simple words of Jesus to really know what Christianity is supposed to be about. We should not let the theological “big heads” push us in any different direction.
Oh, by the way this saying applies to nations as well as people. “If you think you are great then you aren’t”.
But what do I know….
4 thoughts on “Great Men…”
But then there are those people who think they are great, and who actually are. A friend of mine is good at everything. From ladies to the lute. He can do just about anything right. It is actually extremely annoying.
But I do agree with the big head complex many people get. It’s a bit of a complex I have when I am praised for something. I wonder if those people are just telling me certain things to be nice… then again, what if I am great?! But you can’t think that way, because you wont be. I guess it’s all a matter of ego, which is really sort of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Whatever it is.
I think that Will’s and also my point is not that some people are good at certain things, of course some are. It is more about mental attitude or as you say what you think of yourself when people compliment you. This topic is very much in line with what most people deem the worst of the “Seven Deadly Sins” which is pride. Pride is a double edged sword. It has a beneficial side but also a very deadly side. When you get it in your head that “I am much superior to everyone else” because you can throw a ball through a ring or sing a melody a certain way, that is where the detrimental side of greatness lies. For perhaps the worst examples look at Hitler or maybe Napoleon.
I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment, “The Soul of C.S. Lewis.” One sentence sums up the problem with religious leaders who believe they have all the answers: ” they are worshiping a notion of God rather than God himself.” Their notion is human-based and human-defined so there is a sense of control and knowledge. But, an Infinite God is not definable. The “big heads” have turned their images into idols. Not good,
Yeah, I loved the works of C.S. Lewis. He gets down to the soul of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. When God was asked what people should call him he simply said “I Am”. As you say man’s meager attempt to rename God in their image, not the other way around, and that is only to put him in a box so they can understand him. Why do so many not seem to understand that?? God is who God is and God will do what God will do, it isn’t up to us to define him or his past, present, or future actions.