Earlier this summer, I found myself on a whirlwind tour of historical sites when my mother came to Richmond for a visit. I explored the Civil War battlefields of Appomattox and the site of General Lee’s surrender in Appomattox Court House (Which after much confusion, I learned was the name of that area/city, not an actual courthouse. Virginia is so confusing this way) We toured the Virginia capitol building as well. It is fascinating the spin that different historical experts will put on history. For example, the capitol tour told us that it was Lee’s words to his troops after surrender that helped to bring the nation back together, but at the Museum of the Confederacy and Appomattox Court House we learned that Lee didn’t even write the words he wrote/spoke to his troops, he literally had Colonel Charles Marshall put in his ambulance and guarded so that no one would bother him and the Colonel would not come out until he’d written the remarks.
Feeling inspired by all of this history, and realizing how little I really remember, I began reading, “The Quartet: Orchestrating The Second American Revolution” that recounts the history of how we became not just the states in America but the “United States” of America. In describing the early stages of Washington’s leadership, Ellis says, “It took him more than a year to gain control over his own aggressive instincts, which nearly proved a fatal liability…Eventually he realized that a defensive strategy…was the preferred course, even though it defied every fiber of his being. His seminal strategic insight, which seems obvious in retrospect, was that he did not need to win the war. The British needed to win. He would win by not losing….”
Sometimes you cannot fix a situation, you only endure it. Sometimes you don’t need to win, you just need to not lose.
Too many times in our lives we don’t feel it is enough to just stand our ground, we want to lodge a full on frontal assault. We must win, taking no prisoners. But in the process of the battle, we lose more than we have to give.
Sometimes we have to quiet the part of us that wants to push everyone else off of the mountain, launch ourselves to the top and shout “I’m the king of the world” with hands outstretched.
Often it is more important to quiet our pride, and know that even though it may “def[y] every fiber of our being,” it is enough to just “not lose.”