During the whole affair, the rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance and resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into a regular body. Indeed they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself very much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about…
-Brigadier General Hugh Percy (British), quoted after the battle of Lexington and Concord, 1775
I’ve heard the story of April 19, 1775 many times, as told by many different people. The above quote is one that tends to make an impression, if only because of the reverent tone of the speaker. I didn’t really know what it meant, but it sounded important.
What I’ve discovered is that sometimes you can be going right along in life along what seems like a totally predicable course, exactly according to plan. Suddenly, life plops something in your path that was totally unexpected in the form of a hard decision that needs to be made, usually in the form of some crisis or another. This is when you find out if you know what you are about.
Living according to principles can cause those decisions to be somewhat painful and gut wrenching. It also tends to make the way forward completely clear. Clear, because having principles means that there is a standard. At the fork in the path, one way will stand in accordance and one in discordance to the principle. It is difficult, because the right decision is often the more difficult course of action.
People that don’t live according to principle can be persuaded into going along with almost anything. The human mind is awesome in its capacity to rationalize anything and everything. Lawyers make a life study out of turning obvious truths on their heads. Popular culture and opinion are likewise completely upside down.
In a world that has adopted a sliding scale of right and wrong, it’s easy to be misunderstood by sticking to what is right. It’s not enough to stick to what seems right, there needs to be constant searching and contemplation to make sure there is actually consistency of action and not just some self-serving rationalization. Just as we run self-defense “what if?” scenarios, it’s important to keep sharp the ability to apply core principles and beliefs, and to continue to refine our powers of discernment.
When a decision is required in which the only benefit of doing right is knowing you’ll retain your integrity, and there are substantial and significant losses in terms of status and resources, the decision may be obvious, but it is not easy. This is true even for small things. The small things provide practice for when the big things come along unexpectedly.
On April 19, 1775 a small group of inhabitants of the town of Lexington, Massachusetts were roused from their slumber and forced to make a decision. The choice that was safest was to do nothing, allow their property to be forcibly and unlawfully taken by their own military, and allow the unlawful arrest of two of their own. They were aware, however that the right to property is a natural right, which is intrinsic to being human (also a factor was that the written laws were on their side as well). That was a fundamental principle that dictated they take the alternate course of action.
That alternate course of action meant that about 80 of them, regular folks banded together in a militia, were going to stand up to 250 to 300 soldiers in the world’s elite fighting force, who also happened to be their own army. Predictably, most of the men who stood were mowed down by ball and bayonet. The result of that decision is also that we are able to live in the freest country in the world. They were not hesitant to give their lives for their posterity, which is you and I.
There is a full court societal press on right now in an attempt to lure you into giving into the key weaknesses of our human condition- lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Weak people are easy to manipulate. Most of us have an internal compass to tell us what is right and what is wrong. The key is to consult it and actually listen when it comes time to decide on important things.