Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wisdom Justified by Time

Dick Cheney’s autobiography In My Time reviews the lives of political figures who have shaped America the past several decades. Cheney rubbed shoulders with many of Washington’s elites, gleaning wisdom from some of their lives.

Careful observers gleaned one valuable lesson from observing the leadership of Gerald Ford: some actions are only justified by time.

Cheney shares the surprise he and many Americans, experienced when President Ford announced on September 8, 1974, that he was issuing a full, free, and absolute pardon to Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Cheney writes, He described his actions as a way to ‘shut and seal’ the matter of Watergate and to mitigate the suffering of Richard Nixon and his family.  

At the time, this action cost Ford – some speculate that it cost him the reelection. There was immediately a firestorm of controversy and criticism. Ford’s approval rating dropped from 71% to 49%. The press condemned Ford, and he endured much negative criticism as a result. 

However, more than thirty years later, Cheney writes, the wisdom and generosity of Gerald Ford’s instincts have been recognized for their courage and honored for their rightness. But at the time the pardon was controversial and unpopular.

The Right Choice

Wisdom beckons that at times the right choice is the unpopular choice. The right choice may be greatly misunderstood and even condemned. It takes courage to make the right choice. And in time, even those who criticize that person may see years later that it was the right choice.

Many years ago, my parents left a toxic church situation. When they joined the next church, the pastor told them, I don’t know what happened at that church, but everyone who comes here from there comes hurting. Before they left, Mom warned some persons of the unwise and ungodly path of the senior pastor. Mom and Dad received an incredible amount of criticism and ostracism for their stance. The pastor told the staff to not have conversations with them.  My parents left their church of 25+ years belittled, bruised, and broken.  Several years later, however, after several hundred people and most of the staff left the church, an ex-staff member commented to me in retrospect, Mrs. Wilson was right.

One of the traits of a godly man or woman is this: a godly person does not play to the crowd. A wise person does not make his judgments solely based on public opinion. King Saul in the Old Testament lived most of his reign working to make himself look good in front of others. The fruit of his character revealed a pitiful life, not so different than the lives of some Hollywood favorites or political figures that woo the crowds but lead miserable lives of shallow character.

The roar of the crowd and public opinion are often fickle and sway with the wind. As with President Ford's day, systems of people are quick to make fast judgments and shift blame to scapegoats to manage their current stress. But the perspective of years often reveals a different reality.

Be willing to make the hard decisions when necessary. God will be pleased, and time will tell.


Pictures courtesy of Pixabay

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