BRIGHT SPOTS FRIDAY: WHAT is right, rather than WHO is right.


I inherited a lot from my dad. His sense of humor. His love of sports and passion for coaching. His sensitivity and deep compassion for people. His desire to be an entrepreneur. Having a role model as a kid that became a best friend over time was something I didn’t realize was so rare. And for those qualities, I am thankful. There is another character trait he passed on however… his Irish temper. That one I’ve struggled with for 40+ years.

I suppose being a naturally emotional person works in two directions. The elevated heart rate and blood pressure and breathing. The increased body temperature and sweating. The desire to simply REACT. Possessing a smart wit and a sarcastic streak don’t exactly come in handy in these situations. I’m a bit of an expert on the matter.

The Bright Spot here is that I am trying these days to focus on WHAT is right, rather than WHO is right. When I find myself in disagreement with someone or something, I still get that initial flush of fervor. But a passage from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations runs through my mind: “Keep this thought handy when you feel a bit of rage coming on – it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance – unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

It’s not a stretch to relate this to our quest at the gym everyday. After all, strength and endurance are two of the pillars of CrossFit methodology. Doesn’t it make sense to work to improve our emotional health similarly to our physical health? Our coaches encourage us to work on our weaknesses to improve our overall fitness. Who needs more anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and depression, not to mention a heart attack or a stroke? Anger is not impressive or tough. It is a WEAKNESS.

From July 1st – July 3rd, 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War. But it could just as easily have marked the end. Once the Union Army had repulsed a dramatic infantry assault against the center of their lines on Cemetery Ridge, General George Meade could easily have struck the death blow to Robert E. Lee. For unknown reasons, Meade allowed Lee to lead his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. Abraham Lincoln was FURIOUS at Meade. Shortly after the battle, Lincoln composed a letter to Meade in which he expressed profound disappointment in Meade’s inability to pursue and destroy Lee’s army.

In it he wrote, “I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape– He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with the our other late successes, have ended the war– As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more then two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it–”

When he was finished the letter he folded it up, put it in his desk drawer and never sent it. It became one of Lincoln’s “Hot Letters”.

Think of the last time you reacted by flying off the handle. Was the outcome of the situation better? In today’s world of texting and email and social media, it’s a whole lot easier to react. My challenge to you this week is to find your own form of Hot Letter. If you simply VENT, you are forfeiting the deeper consideration of what exactly you should say and why, precisely, you should say it.

When my dad would vent, he would typically come back once he settled down and apologize, make amends, and figure out a better way to handle the situation. I’m working on creating less occasions that require me to recant. I’m working on being in control of my passions rather than being controlled by them.

What is your Bright Spot this week?…