Many of the newly elected leadership of the House and Senate need to remember the example of Margaret Thatcher of England when she distinguished herself by maintaining an outsiders perspective. Robert Greene in his excellent work, The 33 Strategies of War, reports of Thatcher, “If Thatcher had become like the men around her, she would simply have been replaced by yet another man. Her instinct was to stay an outsider. In fact, she pushed being an outsider as far as it could go: she set herself up as one woman against an army of men.” Greene goes on to observe that Thatcher was not seduced by popularity; instead she set her sights on attacking and defeating problems and national enemies.
As I observed the dynamics of last week, I could not see any “Margaret Thatchers” emerging from the crowd. On the contrary I could not help thinking about the story of a man named Damocles.
Legend has it that a 4th century tyrant named Dionysius lived in Syracuse, Italy (the richest city in Sicily). Among his many admirers, was a flattering young gentleman in his court named Damocles. Repeatedly, Damocles remarked how fortunate the king was to live in the palace with all his riches and splendor.
One day, the king insisted that he and Damocles trade places. For the courtier, it was a delightful day – filled with food, pampering, and very little responsibility. He was literally waited on hand and foot. Towards the end of the first day of lavish treatment, legend records that Damocles happened to look up and see a glistening razor sharp sword hanging over his head by a single thread made from horse hair. The courtier exclaimed to the king, “Do you see that sword hanging over my head?” The king answered, “Of course I do. I see it everyday.”
The king went on to say that although everyone wanted his position, few had taken the time to observe the real pressures and precarious nature of the job. Upon hearing the king’s sober explanation of the suspended sword, Damocles quickly returned to his home and never asked to change places with the king again.
It strikes me that several of our front running politicians are guilty of the envy, jealousy, and power hunger that prompted Damocles to nag his friend, King Dyonisius, into changing places. Only time will tell who will become the real darlings of the American people in 2008.
My prayer for the emerging new leaders of the next few years is that they will choose substance over sizzle, and servanthood over political seduction. This is especially important for our nation as we address the problems of Iraq, the Middle East, and radical Islam.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
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