Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Words to Live By 5: On Decisiveness



by Seattle Jon (bio)

Words to Live By is a series featuring short selections by eminent men and women from the mid-twentieth century. Originally published in This Week magazine, the selections represent a mosaic of what people were thinking and feeling in challenging times. Read previous entries here.

On Decisiveness
by William G. Saltonstall (Principal of the Phillips Exeter Academy)

"Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise." - Horace

One of our human failings, as I see it, has been our admiration for the "middle-of-the-roader." Certainly many of us agree that the exercise of restraint is one of the marks of the good man. But in some areas compromise is flabby and dangerous. Any person of real conviction and strength must choose one side of the road or the other. It would be a strange kind of education that urged us to be "relatively" honest, "sometimes" just, "usually" tolerant, "for the most part" decent.

As you read history and biography, I think you will not come to equate greatness with compromise. Rather, you will find it in decisiveness, combined with charity, gentleness and justice. There will be some wrong decisions, of course, but as long as mistakes are recognized, the loss is far less serious than that occasioned by playing the middle of the road, sitting on the fence, undecided, unconvinced, incapable of strong feeling.

Life should be a continuing search for those people, those ideas and those causes to which we can gladly and wholly give ourselves.

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