How would you respond if someone suddenly makes you the laughing stock in front of everyone? Would you try to get back at them? For Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, he chose not to retaliate against his enemies but turn them into friends instead.
Born in 1809 as the second child of a carpenter, Abraham Lincoln grew up to become a lawyer and eventually the president of the United States. There was a story circulating on the internet that President Lincoln was mocked on his first day of becoming president due to having come from a family of poor background.
It was said that at that time, the senators were from respected and rich families, and they were not pleased that a shoemaker’s son had become the head of the country.
Thus, when President Lincoln started to address the country in his inauguration speech, a senator suddenly interrupted him.
“Mr. Lincoln, you should not forget that your father used to make shoes for my family,” said the man.
The man’s purpose was to make a fool out of the president. When the rest of the senators heard this, they laughed and thought that the senator had succeeded in making the president a laughing stock.
Faced with such embarrassment, what would one do?
For the president, he reacted with calmness and poise.
Once everyone stopped laughing, the president said, “Sir I know that my father used to make shoes in your house for your family, and there will be many others here where that is the case too… because of the way he made shoes; nobody else was his equal.
“He was a creator. His shoes were not just shoes, he poured his whole soul in them. I want to ask you, have you any complaint? Because I know how to make shoes myself; if you have a complaint I can make you another pair of shoes. But as far as I know, nobody has ever complained about my father’s shoes. He was a genius, a great creator and I am proud of my father.”
What a powerful reply! It was a response that no one saw coming.
Hearing this, the senators couldn’t utter a word. They never thought that the president would respond so proudly of his humble background, nor had they fathomed the president’s incredible character.
And as the president of the country, he was still willing to make shoes to settle complaints, if there were any. This was truly unexpected.
Later, when President Lincoln was advised to hit back at that senator for embarrassing him, he refused.
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” the president asked.
Confucius, one of the greatest Chinese philosophers of the time, once said, “Tolerance wins the heart of everyone.”
In Chinese history, there was a story of a very capable military general of the Han Dynasty named Han Xin, who had once suffered the humiliation of being forced to crawl between someone’s legs.
When Han Xin was young, he would always carry a sword strapped to his waist due to his interest in practicing sword techniques. One day, a local ruffian challenged Han Xin to kill him.
“Although you are tall and big and like to carry sword, I know you are a coward,” said the ruffian. “Do you dare to kill me with your sword? If you dare not, you have to crawl between my legs.”
How could Han Xin just casually kill another man? That was a crime. If Han Xin killed him, he would have to pay with his own life. He chose to crawl between the ruffian’s legs instead.
Chinese people today refer to this story from history as “The humiliation from crawling between legs.”
Years later after Han Xin became the King of Chu, he returned to his hometown and made the ruffian a lieutenant.
Han Xin said: “This person is a hero. Could I not have killed him when he humiliated me? But killing him is meaningless, thus I endured the humiliation to achieve today’s work.”
Happy Father's Day! Today we honor one of the fathers of the great Han Dynasty, Han Xin.At a young age, Han Xin loved…
Indeed, with a heart of tolerance, it is not hard to understand why President Lincoln was regarded as one of the best presidents in American history, and how Han Xin was able to achieve great success in his life for enduring a moment of humiliation.
If you were faced with humiliation in the future, would these two stories change your way of handling such embarrassing situations?