The Wisdom of Edmund Burke


There are times when we need to sit with the wise philosophers -  historians - statesman of the past. Edmund Burke is one whose wisdom seems to transcend time and culture. One of Burke's quotes is among the most profound I have ever read. Then, I recently came across another that comes alongside it, very nicely. Here are the quotes:

The first quote, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing," is one that you have heard before. This is a quote often used when the failure of the German people to resist Hitler is examined. There were many Germans opposed to Hitler, but out of fear (or propaganda) they kept silent, they did nothin.

i think it is enormously relevant for our time. For contrary to the naive optimism of those who think we live in a world of daily progress, where things get better and better every day, a strong case can be made for:

the deterioration of morality, civility, truth, beauty and goodness;
the devastation and destruction experienced by so many,
and what Christian theology has simply known as depravity - that sticky, persistent principle of evil that is in us.

In light of that ubiquitous presence of what is wrong, and because of its persuasive and proliferating power - when those of us who are touched by grace, love, wisdom and strength - do nothing - that evil will triumph. Right now, evil is triumphant at so many places and among so many people. Whether it is the sex slave trade, the incessant warfare in the Two-Thirds world, the massive povery that still exists . . . Evil is not going to go away on its own.

Now the second quote comes in. For most of us think there is little or nothing we can about the evil that is in the world. Burke says, one of the greatest mistkes a man or woman (you) will ever make is to do nothing, "because he could do only a little." That is why evil triumphs. We think, if I cannot do something big, then why bother. 

Burke says the opposite. Do the little things. Do them consistently. Do them persistently. Join together with masses of others who likewise do little things. Then, there will be a growing weight of goodness, that step by step, by God's grace, pushes back the darkness.

The real questions are simply these:

What do you see around you that is wrong?
What little steps can you take about what is wrong?
What will keep you from taking those steps?
Who can you ask to join in with you on these little things?

This is the work of leadership, and in fact, it is the work of everyone.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org

LCI - Helping you do lots of little things to push back the darkness.