This is the last part of the letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to General George Meade after the general lost the battle at Gettysburg in July, 1863:
“My dear General,
I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape – He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war – As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.
If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so South of the River, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now affect much.
Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.
I beg you will not consider this a prosecution, or persecution of yourself as you had learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it best to kindly tell you why.
Now, what do you think Meade said after reading this letter?
Actually, Mead never read it because the letter was never sent. It was found among Lincoln’s papers after his death.
Lincoln’s possible thoughts for not sending the letter:
“Just a minute. I ought to not be so hasty. It is easy enough for me to sit here in the quiet of the White House and order Meade to attack, but if I had been up at Gettysburg and if I had seen as much blood as Meade has seen during the last week and if my ears would have been pierced with the screams of the wounded and dieing, maybe I wouldn’t have been so anxious to attack either.
If I had Meade’s timid temperament, perhaps I would have done just as he had done…If I send this letter, it would relieve my feelings but it will only make Meade try to justify himself. It will make him condemn me and it will arouse hard feelings…“
I think that Lincoln was wise enough to see that criticizing will only make things worse. It will indeed for the moment relieve his feelings, but it will not get to the bottom of the problem. Writing the letter was a good thing because it released the pressure inside his mind. However, never sending it was the best thing to do. It showed wisdom and responsibility on behalf of Lincoln.
If he was capable enough to restrain himself from criticizing his general (even though he was entitled to do so), why not all of us should do the same?
I mean, whenever someone pisses you off and you fight back, you only reveal the bad nature of the human being, the primal nature. You are only following the path of least resistance and you try to defend yourself. Doing so will make the other person keep pushing and throwing arguments at you until you have no ways to defend yourself.
Instead, you should:
1. Try to understand the reason for which that person is doing or saying whatever he/she says to you. Put yourself into the other person’s shoes.
2. Never act impulsively. You show no wisdom. You only show a lack of control.
3. Wait 10 seconds before saying something. Let your mind digest whatever you have to say before saying it. If you still find your argument appealing enough to say it, then say it. However, I don’t think you will.
This doesn’t mean that you will and should accept all the sh*t that others throw at you. But you should know that acting impulsively shows that you’re a weak person.
The first fundamental technique in handling people, according to Dale Carnegie is:
Never criticize, condemn, or complain. (ClicktoTweet)
If you only do this, I can honestly say that you will have a better life and you’ll be surrounded by a lot of wonderful people.
Do you think that you can apply this in your daily life?
I’m sure that many of you would say that’s impossible. But please tell me why do you think so (in either of the comment sections below) and I will do my best to “defend” my position.
1. Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People
2. Guy Kawasaki – Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
3. Letter of Abraham Lincoln to General George Meade – July 14, 1863