Would I give my life for others? That is a question I wrestle with internally every Memorial Day. In a weekend that can be dominated by sports tournaments, cookouts, and vacations it can be difficult to find the space and solitude to adequately reflect on the magnitude of this question.
If you asked this question to most people regarding their immediate family and dear friends, the answer would be yes. But what if it was for a complete stranger? Those people that we have never met? The people with differing views, or even our enemies? Would you? For those we remember and honor this weekend, their answer was yes.
“If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Typically, I’ll take the topic of the blog and apply it to our leadership worlds. This week is different. To compare the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for others to anything we do daily in leadership just simply falls short. So, I want to share five personal reflections on what we can learn from those who Gave All (last year’s post) and answered affirmatively to the question, “Would I give my life for others?”
To sacrifice is to be selfless. People tend to drift between selfish and selfless. Selfish is natural, there are not too many self-help books on the topic! To be selfless, we have to put others first. Our wants, desires, and needs are secondary. That is not always easy for humans.
John 15:13 (ESV) says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” These brave men and women chose others above themselves. They made this sacrificial choice, no questions asked.
I cannot even begin to fathom the level of heroism displayed by those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes run into the storm when everyone else runs out. When the average person flees, the American hero has always and will always stand in the gap, even if it means falling. We will never know the names of all the heroes who have fallen on our behalf, so we simply call them heroes.
We all have the ability to die for others, most just lack the willingness. Willingness is a key differentiator between those that would and would not make this sacrifice. When I take the time to reflect, it is humbling to think that there are people that are willing, were willing, and did die for my personal freedom. I rest easy at night knowing my family and I are always protected by those willing to make this level of sacrifice.
Evil Cannot Sustain
One thing that is for certain, darkness cannot exist with light. The only way darkness can sustain is with the absence of light. Those who fell in service to our country are an eternal light for our freedoms, now and forever. It may not feel like it at times, especially in the craziness of this world, but evil cannot sustain when there are brave men and women who have and will continue to give their lives for others. Evil cannot sustain where light is fueled by sacrificial service. Period.
They Carried Burdens
One of the most somber things I think about in my reflections of Memorial Day is that within their sacrifice lay the cure for cancer, a technological breakthrough, or the next great generational leader.
All great causes start with a burden. Their burden was each of our futures in freedom. They preserved the idea that in a free society, anyone can do and be anything. It should humble us, yet inspire us to realize the awesome obligation we have to fulfil their burden for our country’s future and our individual purposes in life.
Conclusion – Be Grateful
President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” General George S. Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.” President Harry S. Truman said, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” Forgetting that is ungrateful. I do not want to ever lose my gratitude for those that died on my behalf. Ever.
Would I Give My Life for Others Perspective
We can get so caught up in political divisiveness today that we fail to remember this simple fact. Regardless of our opinions, our freedom to believe differently is covered in the sacrifice of someone we never met. Someone who was willing to die for me without concern of what I looked like, my economic status, how I believed, or what my political opinions were.
Would I give my life for others? For those who answered yes and fulfilled that commitment, I choose to always remember and will never forget. I will choose to be grateful for their sacrifice by living a life that makes me worthy of it.