George Washington is often heralded as the “American Cincinnatus.” Cincinnatus being the Roman citizen turned war hero who returned to civilian life after the war had been won, never seeking power or riches as a reward. Washington, obviously, followed the exact same pattern.
Not only was Washington a venerable and honorable statesman, but he was also a wise leader.
He knew that everything that he said and did would be scrutinized and modeled long after he was gone. Before leaving office, Washington wanted to impart some of the wisdom he attained throughout his career.
Of the many things he said in his farewell address, here are some of the most important and oft-forgotten:
- Political parties or factions subvert the power of the people and can be “a frightful despotism.”
- Religion and morality are the most important habits that lead to political prosperity.
- Debt should be avoided.
- Foreign influence and alliance should be avoided.
Almost immediately after Washington left office, we divided into political parties.
A large number of Americans now believe that religion and morality are a joke (based on their actions).
And last but not least, our country has been involved in foreign wars nearly my entire life and provides subsidies to governments and localities throughout the world all on your dime.
Hardly the vision that Washington had for America. Why would Washington even say these things in the first place? His main concern was the preservation of freedom and liberty of the people. Everything he cautioned about was something that diminishes freedom and enslaves the people of a nation.
Where We Go Wrong
So what gives? Where did we go wrong?
Well, for starters, Washington’s Farewell Address is no longer taught in schools as it was up until about WWI, at which point we began sticking our noses in foreign entanglements and racking up tons of debt.
I’m convinced that as a nation, had we remembered Washington’s words, we would have avoided many problems we’re facing today. But that is a rabbit hole that we can explore another time.
For the purposes of this article, I want to focus on how this applies to you and me.
As you know, many things that apply to us as a nation apply to us as individuals. And the underlying principle in this little anecdote about Washington’s Farewell Address is no exception. This is also the fifth and final step of Self Governance: remember.
Remember what, specifically?
A few things, actually.
The Process Of Self Governance
First and foremost are the self governance steps 1 through 4:
These steps are not just one time events that we check off the list and forget about. These steps are repeatable principles that can and should be integrated into our daily lives.
You continually have to make the conscious decision to be the master of your fate; the captain of your soul.
You must continue to reach higher and set goals for yourself.
Examining and cultivating your relationship with God is an ongoing process.
And as you progress, you must look at the things that are no longer serving you or holding you back and get rid of them. By remembering and continuing to do these things, your life will be more fulfilling and you will have greater personal freedom.
The Good And The Bad
Second, you need to remember the good AND the bad.
It’s very easy for many of us to remember the good things we do. We got straight A’s in high school or college. We were the star athlete. We accomplished so much by age 25. It’s easy to remember and tout these victories.
But how often do we remember or think about the things we did wrong? I know that I have tried to forget things I have done wrong many times. However, our failures can either serve as a stumbling block or a stepping stone. We have the ability to choose.
In today’s world, we have seen a push by many to remove historical works whether in art or literature because some of the concepts are now ‘offensive’ to some people. The idea is that if we get rid of these things, then we can make our society a lot ‘safer’ for people who feel offended.
Depending on the nature and intent of the work, I think removing such things would lead to a collective forgetting of history. When you forget history, just as we have done with Washington’s Farewell Address, you’re bound to repeat it or at least fall into the same pitfalls as generations before.
Thus, forgetting the past, good and bad, can become an enemy to your own personal freedom.
Keep It Real
The last thing you need to remember is to keep a realistic perspective.
I believe that the best attitude to have in life, for most things, is reasonably optimistic with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Having this sort of even-keeled perspective can help you avoid setbacks when they come and give you the optimism to continue forward.
Rather being a person who makes his or her decisions based on emotions- positive or negative, you become a person who makes decisions based on facts and available data, continually questioning and seeking after truth.
Remembering that things usually work out, but also remembering that things could get worse.
Without this last step of Self Governance, the first four steps are essentially hollow. There is never a point where you can say, “I did it. I am completely self-disciplined and self-governing. I’m done!”
If you do feel like you can say that, hit me up and let me know what I’m doing wrong because I would love to know your secrets.
As you may have guessed from reading this series on the process of becoming self-governing, the principles are not very clear-cut, and the process is not very easy. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly. You either go all in or not at all.
So what are the benefits of choosing to live this way and from following this mindset?
One word: freedom.
Freedom from your past. Freedom from money. Freedom in health. Freedom in relationships.
You decide what your life will be like, and you put yourself in a position to make it happen.
So if you haven’t already, put these principles to the test and find out if they really work. If done sincerely, I guarantee that you’ll find greater fulfillment and purpose in your life and help our nation get back to the experiment of self-governance.
Is there really any other way to live?