You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. WINSTON CHURCHILL
Yes, we all have an enemy. Confronting your enemy is important. Why? Because it strengthens you, helping your growth and success. It may even eliminate that enemy. Please note that I said confront, not attack. Attacking your enemies gets you nowhere. Ignoring them gets you nowhere. It is confronting them that will get you somewhere.
The novelist and playwright James Arthur Baldwin, once said that, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”. You have to confront what or who frightens you – what holds you back from growth. You cannot afford to play the ostrich and bury your head in the sand, hoping that they will miraculously disappear, and there is no magic wand that you can wave to get rid of your enemies. You have to face them down. If you don’t, their hold on you will get stronger and stronger.
My observation is that it is far more powerful and fruitful to become a person with a cause than a person with a grievance. When you are face to face with an enemy, you are up against a discovery about your true strength, because until you’ve faced and fought your enemy with everything you’ve got, you’ll never discover how strong you are.
What frightens me most is how quickly many people settle to what they call their lot. A bullying boss or partner who frequently undermines your existence, or racism or corporate slavery … whatever yours may be, you’ve got to face and fight it. You’ve got to fight it with everything you’ve got, even if you think you’d lose and especially when some conventional thinking recommends that it may be easier to roll over. We’ve all heard the crowded conversation,
“He’s deluded. Surely, he knows he’ll fail. You don’t fight an enemy with much bigger resources, with a superior education, an army of supporters … You’ll not win. You’d be crushed!”
Wrong! My observation is that several other factors play into winning. The most important factors are what’s inside your head and your level of courage and self-belief. But before courage, self-belief and their equally important relatives, there’s one critical step that you must first take. You must say, ‘No more’. This is the main thing that will give you a chance of winning – a chance to make the world a better place. This is only possible when you join the band of visionaries, who faced their enemies, who withstood some discomfort for their fight, and whose fight started a domino effect that did not just change their circumstances but changed our world for the better.
The portraits of these extraordinary, visionary human beings and their extraordinary journeys have kept me awake many nights. Their stories have taught me about courage, sacrifice and individual dignity, inspiring me to be the change I desire. I am greatly inspired, challenged and encouraged by:
- William Wilberforce, who tirelessly fought for the abolition of the slave trade and subsequently of slavery itself. Wilberforce faced fierce opposition from those making fortunes from the slave trade, including the church. He headed the campaign against the trade until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and the campaign for the abolition of slavery, which led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1933.
- Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker and activist, who served in the Polish Underground as head of the Żegota children’s section in German-occupied Warsaw. Irena Sendler, with the help of about 24 other Żegota members, risked her life to smuggle some 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto, saving these children during the Holocaust. She was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo and sentenced to death for her actions, but she was saved on the way to her execution. Irena survived the war and was awarded Poland’s highest honour – the Order of the White Eagle – and she appears on a 2009 Polish commemorative coin.
- Nelson Mandela, who fought apartheid. Nelson Mandela fought for the freedom of his fellow blacks in South Africa. Against overwhelming odds, he uncompromisingly achieved his dream of equality for all South Africans after serving 27 years in prison, and became a champion of individual dignity and freedom and for peace and reconciliation. Mandela went from prisoner to president and proved that even imprisonment cannot stop us, when we are fighting for a cause much bigger than us.
The list goes on and on and on. There are millions of men and women in our time, who have faced a bigger enemy, risking their lives on the possibility that they could make the world a better place for all. They did not wish or wait for the world to change. They actively participated in creating the change they desired.
Pause for a moment and consider what each one of the people I’ve mentioned, and others like them, have in common. What common threads run through their profiles? Apart from courage, determination and an unshakeable resolve to realise their vision, they lived on the edge of possibility not probability. They stood up for something, something bigger than their own success. Their decisions and actions were guided by what is right and by love.
We have so much to learn from their actions and sacrifices and we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Because of their actions and sacrifices, freedom, individual dignity and hope were restored. Many of us today are spared the anguish, antagonism, injustice and annihilation faced daily by our great grand parents and their parents. Thanks to their legacy, we are all moved forward and each of us are able to breathe more easily.
- So, what or who is your enemy?
- What action do you need to take right now?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for victory?
I truly believe that freedom, hope and peace are worth fighting for on any given day.
BE A STORY WORTH TELLING