It is pretty easy to feel good about ourselves when things are going our way, when we’re in the slipstream, when we’re cruising with the wind at our backs. The self-esteem is intact, the positivity is working overtime, and we’re feeling like a million bucks, with a silver dollar burning a hole in the pocket of our jeans. It’s pretty easy to feel significant, important even, validated, if not by circumstances, at least by our own feelings. These are good feelings. We need them in our lives. But this is not the measure of a man, or a woman for that matter. A man is measured more by how he deals with adversity than by how he deals with blessing. Sure, a man who has everything going his way can indulge in life in a way that would diminish his own stature, and many do. Or he can respond to blessing with dignity and generosity. These are measurements of the man, but most men, and women, rise to their true stature through disappointment, through hardship, and even through despair. There are some, born of luck and privilege, who manage to be great, but history shows that most truly great people have risen from circumstances that challenged them to their very core.
For those of us who do not face that level of challenge, we are measured by how we respond to the general vicissitudes of life. We all have hardship, disappointment, and, to varying degrees, broken dreams. It is not about whether or not it gets us down, but about whether or not we get back up. And what we do with the experience. Greatness is not measured externally by a jury of greatness experts, but internally, privately, within each of us individually. If we’re paying attention we know when we are living in greatness, and when we are not.
It is accessible to each of us.