The French writer Victor Hugo was quoted to have said,“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”

And the content of that soul is what makes the man. Tolerance is an often under-appreciated quality but one that innumerably benefits those who possess it, and should be strived for by all those who do not. Tolerance is indispensable for any soul who wishes to achieve greatness. It is an act of restraint, of self-control and of stoic confidence in one’s conviction.

Below is the story of the great Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration day speech, when he became the 16th president of the United States.

The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln was born into a lowly family, who made a living as common shoemakers. At the time, American society attached great importance to having a noble family background. So of course, all of the United States Senators at that time originated from respected and highly connected families. Most members of the highest order of US society were not willing to accept the fact that this new presidential candidate belonged to a family of ordinary shoemakers. He was considered a social nobody, with credentials far below par.

Lincoln taking the oath of office. (Wikimedia/Public domain)

On the first day of his presidency, as Lincoln began to address his country in his inauguration speech, a senator mockingly  interrupted.

“Mr. Lincoln, you should not forget that your father used to make shoes for my family,” came his damning slander.

Upon hearing his statement, the other senators proceeded to burst into arrogant laughter. They thought that they had succeeded in making a fool of Mr. President Lincoln.

However, after the laughter had subsided, President Lincoln, neither in anger nor in jest but in sincerity replied, “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.”

All the senators were left speechless. They realized that they had not understood President Lincoln at all and had vastly underestimated his character. Lincoln was rightfully proud of his father, the shoemaker, as no one had ever complained about his work. He had honor in his craft and took pride in doing the job to the best of his ability. Despite being the President of the United States of America, Mr. Lincoln was still willing to humbly make a new pair of shoes for anyone if there was a complaint.

Someone later advised President Lincoln to retaliate upon that senator; embarrass him publicly, but Lincoln just said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Due to his sincerity and tolerance, fairness and wisdom, Lincoln became part of the cornerstone of American culture. He is widely regarded today as one of the finest American presidents to ever have held office, and is the archetype of the American dream.

The great poet Gibran once said, “A great man has two hearts. One bleeds. One tolerates.”  

Confucius too, said “Tolerance wins the heart of everyone.”

So, one kind sentence, a small and simple act or just a smile, might be enough to turn a wicked person into a kind one. An act of tolerance can turn a cold, hateful heart into one of trust and inclusion.

If you would dwell on the faults of others and require changes in them, you ultimately just distress yourself. If you stop your spirit from being consumed by hatred, anxiety or anger in the face of others indiscretions, a serenity instead will occupy you heart. By choosing a path of tolerance you open your heart and find the key to a life of ease.



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