Rising Past Your Past

Some people with the worst past end up creating the best futures.
Umar bin al Khattab
As a boy, I saw many men come and go as employees at my grandfather’s bar. Even though all of these men came from different circumstances, there were some who had an air of self-respect and discipline that set them apart. After a while I knew who these men would be because my grandfather would always tell them the same phrase when he hired them.

I can trust a man who has risen out of hell more than one who’s convinced he’s going to heaven.

My grandfather wasn’t a trusting man, as he made it clear to every businessman and banker he dealt with. So when he used the word "trust," it would stand out. As I grew older I realized that all of these men were either reformed convicts, Viet Vets who had problems adjusting to civilian life, or people he knew from fighting his own daemons in a bottle.

I have come to understand what he meant all too well as I grew older. People who have lived either a sheltered existence or have never fallen victim to their own weakness assume they have a right to judge the actions of others. Yet those who know just how easy it is to fall are the ones who fight the hardest to be more.

We all have the possibility to the bad that happens, to ourselves and to those around us. It just takes an instant to falter, getting caught up in our own arrogance or anger that we act without consideration of our actions. We can hurt those who we are meant to protect, we can lose that which is the most important to us, and we have to live with the knowledge of just what we are capable of doing.

It’s not easy to live with that knowledge. But it’s this knowledge, the stench of the dragon within each of us, which teaches us the importance of being more, for us and for those around us. We know what it means when sorry can’t fix the problem you caused, so we learn to act in a way where we don’t have to say “I’m sorry” any more. We learn to value the respect of others and more importantly the respect we have for ourselves.

That’s why I have little trust on any man who thinks he can do no wrong, ones who think they are better than those around them. The reality is we all can be the “bad” than can befall on someone. Or, we can be the “good” that befalls on someone. The choice is yours and yours alone. 

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