I Am a Coward (but I'm trying to get better)

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A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded.

― Murray Kempton

Great leaders inspire thought and action.

But their real value? Great leaders inspire action. Hard action. Uncomfortable action.

I’m reading Resilience by Eric Greitens. I have already bought six copies of the book, and I’m sure I’ll buy more. I want everyone to read it. The book changes people.

Last night, I contacted a man I’ve criticized but never met. Eric’s book pushed me. I recognized myself in this passage:

First, many critics are cowards. Not only do they snipe at lives that they are unwilling to live themselves, but they’ll mouth off for years and never once have the courage to sit down with you, face to face, and tell you what they think.

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life 

Holy crap! That’s me! I’m that coward. Not “was that coward.” I am that coward.

So, because of Resilience, I contacted someone I’ve criticized but never met. I apologized. I offered to talk on the phone.

We talked last night. To his credit, he called me. That wasn’t easy for him, I’m sure. I’m not certain I’d have called me under the circumstances. But he called me, and I’m grateful.

It’s uncomfortable to tell someone, “I’m going to call you out,” and I avoid uncomfortable situations. So I’ll probably be less critical of people in the future, if I live by this rule. But I’ll be able to look Eric Greitens in the eye if I ever meet him again. He inspired me to take a difficult, uncomfortable action. Eric is a leader and a teacher.

Don’t think of me as some sort of hero because I talked to someone I’ve criticized. I’m not. I’m still a coward. I will always dread making a call to someone to say, “I don’t like what you did, and I’m going to call you out on it.” If I were the man I’d like to be, I wouldn’t have needed Eric Greitens to prod me toward this act of common courtesy.

But I did need his prodding. So I’m still a coward.

Society needs leaders like Eric Greitens. Desperately. We need leaders in office who inspire us to become better human beings. Issues are important, but character comes first.

Great leaders like Eric Greitens make the world better by helping people get better.