Daily Riches: Conflict and Ego (David Brooks and Barack Obama)

“Historically, we reserve special admiration for those who can quiet the self even in the heat of conflict. Abraham Lincoln was caught in the middle of a horrific civil war. It would have been natural for him to live with his instincts aflame — filled with indignation toward those who started the war, enmity toward those who killed his men and who would end up killing him. But his second inaugural is a masterpiece of rising above the natural urge toward animosity and instead adopting an elevated stance. [Today] the beheadings and the monstrous act of human incineration [committed by ISIS] are also insults designed to generate a visceral response … to make the rest of us feel powerless, at once undone by fear and addled by disgust. The natural and worst way to respond is with the soul inflamed. …If they chest-thump, we’ll chest-thump. If they kill, we’ll kill. This sort of strategy  … sucks us into their nihilistic status war…. The world is full of invisible young men yearning to feel significant, who’d love to shock the world and light folks on fire in an epic status contest with the reigning powers. The best way to respond is to quiet our disgust and quiet our instincts. It is to step out of their game. It is to reassert the primacy of our game.  …without that mission we’re just one more army in a contest of barbarism. Our acts are nothing but volleys in a status war.  …conflict inflames the ego, distorts it and degrades it. The people we admire break that chain. They quiet the self and step outside the status war. They focus on the larger mission.” David Brooks

“… for Lincoln, it was never a matter of abandoning conviction for the sake of expediency. Rather, it was a matter of maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas – that we must talk and reach for common understanding, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with the certainty that God is on our side….” Barack Obama

“How the mighty have fallen!” 2 Samuel 1:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does ego sometimes get the best of you? in your marriage? your work? your politics?
  • Can you “step out” of the “status war” when there’s conflict?
  • How do you “quiet yourself” in times of great upheaval?

Abba, in conflict help me to quiet my reactive soul.


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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