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The University of Hard Knocks - Chapter 5
How We Become Great
WE go up as we grow great. That is, we go up as we grow up. But so many are trying to grow great on the outside without growing great on the inside. They rattle on the inside!
They fool themselves, but nobody else.
There is only one greatness--inside greatness. All outside greatness is merely an incidental reflection of the inside.
Greatness is not measured in any material terms. It is not measured in inches, dollars, acres, votes, hurrahs, or by any other of the world's yardsticks or barometers.
Greatness is measured in spiritual terms. It is education. It is life expansion.
We go up from selfishness to unselfishness.
We go up from impurity to purity.
We go up from unhappiness to happiness.
We go up from weakness to strength.
We go up from low ideals to high ideals.
We go up from little vision to greater vision.
We go up from foolishness to wisdom.
We go up from fear to faith.
We go up from ignorance to understanding.
We go up by our own personal efforts. We go up by our own service, sacrifice, struggle and overcoming. We push out our own skyline. We rise above our own obstacles. We learn to see, hear, hold and understand.
We may become very great, very educated, rise very high, and yet not leave our kitchen or blacksmith shop. We take the kitchen or blacksmith shop right up with us! We make it a great kitchen or great blacksmith shop. It becomes our throne-room!
Come, let us grow greater. There is a throne for each of us.
"Getting to the Top"
"Getting to the top" is the world's pet delusion. There is no top. No matter how high we rise, we discover infinite distances above. The higher we rise, the better we see that life on this planet is the going up from the Finite to the Infinite.
The world says that to get greatness means to get great things. So the world is in the business of getting--getting great fortunes, great lands, great titles, great applause, great fame, and folderol. Afterwhile the poor old world hears the empty rattle of the inside, and wails, "All is vanity. I find no pleasure in them. Life is a failure." All outside life is a failure. Real life is in being things on the inside, not in getting things on the outside.
I weary of the world's pink-sheet extras about "Getting to the Top" and "Forging to the Front." Too often they are the sordid story of a few scrambling over the heads of the weaker ones. Sometimes they are the story of one pig crowding the other pigs out of the trough and cornering all the swill!
The Secret of Greatness
Christ Jesus was a great Teacher. His mission was to educate humanity.
There came to him those two disciples who wanted to "get to the top." Those two sons of Zebedee wanted to have the greatest places in the new kingdom they imagined he would establish on earth.
They got very busy pursuing greatness, but I do not read that they were half so busy preparing for greatness. They even had their mother out electioneering for them.
"O, Master," said the mother, "grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom."
The Master looked with love and pity upon their unpreparedness. "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then he gave the only definition of greatness that can ever stand: "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."
That is we cannot be "born great," nor "have greatness thrust upon" us. We must "achieve greatness" by developing it on the inside--developing ability to minister and to serve.
We cannot buy a great arm. Our arm must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great mind. Our mind must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great character. It is earned in great moral service.
The First Step at Hand
This is the Big Business of life--going up, getting educated, getting greatness on the inside. Getting greatness on the outside is little business. Much of it mighty little.
Everybody's privilege and duty is to become great. And the joy of it is that the first step is always nearest at hand. We do not have to go off to New York or Chicago or go chasing around the world to become great. It is a great stairway that leads from where our feet are now upward for an infinite number of steps.
We must take the first step now. Most of us want to take the hundredth step or the thousandth step now. We want to make some spectacular stride of a thousand steps at one leap. That is why we fall so hard when we miss our step.
We must go right back to our old place--into our kitchen or our workshop or our office and take the first step, solve the problem nearest at hand. We must make our old work luminous with a new devotion. We must battle up over every inch. And as fast as we solve and dissolve the difficulties and turn our burdens into blessings, we find love, the universal solvent, shining out of our lives. We find our spiritual influences going upward. So the winds of earth are born; they rush in from the cold lands to the warm upward currents. And so as our problems disappear and our life currents set upward, the world is drawn toward us with its problems. We find our kitchen or workshop or office becoming a new throne of power. We find the world around us rising up to call us blessed.
As we grow greater our troubles grow smaller, for we see them thru greater eyes. We rise above them.
As we grow greater our opportunities grow greater. That is, we begin to see them. They are around us all the time, but we must get greater eyes to see them.
Generally speaking, the smaller our vision of our work, the more we admire what we have accomplished and "point with pride." The greater our vision, the more we see what is yet to be accomplished.
It was the sweet girl graduate who at commencement wondered how one small head could contain it all. It was Newton after giving the world a new science who looked back over it and said, "I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore * * * while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." That great ocean is before us all.
The Widow's Mites
The great Teacher pointed to the widow who cast her two mites into the treasury, and then to the rich men who had cast in much more. "This poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."
Tho the rich men had cast in more, yet it was only a part of their possessions. The widow cast in less, but it was all she had. The Master cared little what the footings of the money were in the treasury. That is not why we give. We give to become great. The widow had given all--had completely overcome her selfishness and fear of want.
Becoming great is overcoming our selfishness and fear. He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for the advancement of the kingdom of happiness on earth shall find it great and glorified.
Our greatness therefore does not depend upon how much we give or upon what we do, whether peeling potatoes or ruling a nation, but upon the percentage of our output to our resources. Upon doing with our might what our hands find to do. Quit worrying about what you cannot get to do. Rejoice in doing the things you can get to do. And as you are faithful over a few things you go up to be ruler over many.
The world says some of us have golden gifts and some have copper gifts. But when we cast them all into the treasury of right service, there is an alchemy that transmutes every gift into gold. Every work is drudgery when done selfishly. Every work becomes golden when done in a golden manner.
Finding the Great People
I do not know who fitted the boards into the floor I stand upon. I do not know all the great people who may come and stand upon this floor. But I do know that the one who made the floor--and the one who sweeps it--is just as great as anybody in the world who may come and stand upon it, if each be doing his work with the same love, faithfulness and capability.
We have to look farther than the "Who's Who" and Dun and Bradstreet to make a roster of the great people of a community. You will find the community heart in the precious handful who believe that the service of God is the service of man.
The great people of the community serve and sacrifice for a better tomorrow. They are the faithful few who get behind the churches, the schools, the lyceum and chautauqua, and all the other movements that go upward.
They are the ones who are "always trying to run things." They are the happy ones, happy for the larger vision that comes as they go higher by unselfish service. They are discovering that their sweetest pay comes from doing many things they are not paid for. They rarely get thanked, for the community does not often think of thanking them until it comes time to draft the "resolutions of respect."
I had to go to the mouth of a coal-mine in a little Illinois town, to find the man the bureau had given as lyceum committeeman there. I wondered what the grimy-faced man from the shaft, wearing the miner's lamp in his cap, could possibly have to do with the lyceum course. But I learned that he had all to do with it. He had sold the tickets and had done all the managing. He was superintendent of the Sunday school. He was the storm-center of every altruistic effort in the town--the greatest man there, because the most serviceable, tho he worked every day full time with his pick at his bread-and-butter job.
The great people are so busy serving that they have little time to strut and pose in the show places. Few of them are "prominent clubmen." You rarely find their names in the society page. They rarely give "brilliant social functions." Their idle families attend to such things.
A Glimpse of Gunsaulus
I found a great man lecturing at the chautauquas. He preaches in Chicago on Sundays to thousands. He writes books and runs a college he founded by his own preaching. He is the mainspring of so many uplift movements that his name gets into the papers about every day, and you read it in almost every committee doing good things in Chicago.
He had broken away from Chicago to have a vacation. Many people think that a vacation means going off somewhere and stretching out under trees or letting the mind become a blank. But this Chicago preacher went from one chautauqua town to another, and took his vacation going up and down the streets. He dug into the local history of each place, and before dinner he knew more about the place than most of the natives.
"There is a sermon for me," he would exclaim every half-hour. He went to see people who were doing things. He went to see people who were doing nothing. In every town he would discover somebody of unusual attainment. He made every town an unusual town. He turned the humdrum travel map into a wonderland. He scolded lazy towns and praised enterprising ones. He stopped young fellows on the streets. "What are you going to do in life?" Perhaps the young man would say, "I have no chance." "You come to Chicago and I'll give you a chance," the man on his vacation would reply.
So this Chicago preacher was busy every day, working overtime on his vacation. He was busy about other people's business. He did not once ask the price of land, nor where there was a good investment for himself, but every day he was trying to make an investment in somebody else.
His friends would sometimes worry about him. They would say, "Why doesn't the doctor take care of himself, instead of taking care of everybody else? He wears himself out for other people until he hasn't strength enough left to lecture and do his own work."
Sometimes they were right about that.
But he that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life in loving service finds it returning to him great and glorious. This man's preaching did not make him great. His college did not make him great. His books did not make him great. These are the by-products. His life of service for others makes him great--makes his preaching, his college and his books great.
This Chicago man gives his life into the service of humanity, and it becomes the fuel to make the steam to accomplish the wonderful things he does. Let him stop and "take care of himself," and his career would stop.
If he had begun life by "taking care of himself" and "looking out for number one," stipulating in advance every cent he was to get and writing it all down in the contract, most likely Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus would have remained a struggling, discouraged preacher in the backwoods of Morrow county, Ohio.
Give It Now
Gunsaulus often says, "You are planning and saving and telling yourself that afterwhile you are going to give great things and do great things. Give it now! Give your dollar now, rather than your thousands afterwhile. You need to give it now, and the world needs to get it now."