Seven Most Important Lessons my Heroes Taught Me
Lesson #2: Live your truth guided by your moral compass.
With quick access to the opinions of countless others via the internet and social media, it’s as easy as ever to feel one’s own inner voice drowned out by the screams of others. It is therefore more important than ever for each of us to clearly identify and live our own truths, to be guided by our own moral compass.
John Muir loved the outdoors and recognized the fragility of our natural world. His truth was revealed to him by accident.
He was working on one of his mechanical inventions when a metal file flew up into his face, puncturing an eye and blinding him. Both eyes were bandaged, and he was told to lie still for a month, which gave him a lot of time to think and pray. John Muir made a promise to God. If ever again he could see, he would forget about his inventions, and instead, devote his life to God’s inventions—the inventions of nature.
The bandages came off and John Muir was gradually able to see again.
Within a year, he was standing among California’s giant redwood and sequoia trees. Lumber companies blinded by greed were destroying these priceless 3,000 year-old, 35 foot-wide trees.
Muir fulfilled his big promise by taking a stand, by going high. He published magazine articles and books showcasing the beautiful, awe-inspiring Yosemite wilderness. Fellow nature lovers joined him in protest. In 1892, he co-created The Sierra Club. Muir was its first president.
Most of those precious trees are still with us, thanks to John Muir, the “Father of our national parks,” because he lived his truth. He was guided by his moral compass to preserve and protect the wilderness.
No one told Harriet Tubman to risk her life over and over again leading dozens of suffering slaves to freedom. She made that her calling. She made it her destiny to rescue others. That’s why she is now considered one of America’s bravest heroes.
Jane Addams was a college-educated young woman from the wealthy suburbs of Chicago. Most of her peers went down the familiar path of marrying and having children.
After Addams saw the severe challenges immigrants experienced in inner-city Chicago, her moral compass wouldn’t let her look away. In 1889, at the age of 29, she and another brave female friend created a settlement house that was so successful as a community center, it inspired the creation of hundreds of centers across America. She lived her own truth, working tirelessly for more than 40 years, empowering less fortunate people.
When World War I erupted in Europe, Addams firmly opposed America’s participation. It took great courage for her to make that stand. She was vilified and harshly criticized by the press. But after that senseless war ended, people saw in hindsight that Jane Addams was right to have taken a stand against a war that was never about territory or good and evil that cost millions of lives.
Miss Addams’ moral compass also guided her to become a national woman’s rights advocate and an international leader in the peace movement. In 1931, Jane Addams became the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This “First Lady of Peace” was for a time recognized as America’s greatest living woman.
What made her great? When she saw something wrong, she acted with conviction to try and make it right. She lived her Truth. She was guided by her moral compass.
In the late 1600s in England, William Penn was thrown into jail and kept there because he refused to be told what those in the Church of England wanted him to believe. “I owe my conscience to no mortal man,” he would say. He wasn’t going to pretend that he too didn’t have access to the Divine.
Penn believed all individuals are capable of experiencing God. It was heresy to think that in England in the 1600s, but the king owed Penn a favor for something William’s dad had done as an admiral in the navy years before. Eventually, King Charles, II gave William Penn a huge parcel of 45,000 square miles in America. Not that it was the King’s land to give away, but you know how kings are. They think they own everything.
With Pennsylvania, William Penn found a huge opportunity to live his truth and be guided by his moral compass. He spent 18 months before first setting sail for America tweaking what he would name the Holy Experiment in the New World. Based on his belief that “there is that of God in everyone,” he did something radical. In The City of Brotherly Love, people would live by fair and just laws. There would be “liberty and justice for all.” (Sound familiar? Penn was the first to coin those words, which are now part of The Pledge of Allegiance). Written, clearly delineated laws would determine right from wrong, not the whims and moods of privileged royalty.
William Penn’s laws were so well crafted that Thomas Jefferson later referred to Penn as “the greatest law giver the world has produced.” It was Penn’s truth and moral compass that inspired him to create the legal work that laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
When voting on November 6, I think these heroes would encourage us to step outside partisan identity and the media chatter, and vote for the candidates who most clearly speak and act in harmony with your sense of right and wrong.
Live your Truth guided by your moral compass.