The Capacity for Greatness

How do we recognize the greatness within ourselves and put it into practice?


Posted in , Jan 10, 2015

Sprinter celebrating victory. Photo Pete Saloutos, Thinkstock.

During this time of year focused on resolutions and new beginnings, we find ourselves evaluating who we are, where we put our energy and focus, what really matters. Such self-evaluation can be valuable, but also daunting.

I think every one of us has the capacity for greatness–an inner capacity to dig deeper, to find meaning and value in life and in others, to hold on tighter to those elements of belief and understanding that help us to move though this life as fulfilled and fulfilling contributors.

How do we do this? How do we recognize the greatness within ourselves and put it into practice? A good jumping off point is having faith that God sees our value and our capacities as part of a bigger picture. From there, surrounding ourselves with supportive, encouraging people can help bring clarity about our own greatness.

Next would be observing the greatness in others and using their inner strength, wisdom and insight to help us see our own gifts more clearly.

The others you observe might be your friends or family. Or those with wider exposure, like Olympic sprinter Derek Redmond, whose hamstring snapped mid-race in the 400 meters semifinal at the 1992 Barcelona games. He fell to the track in agonizing pain. 

Perhaps the greater agony was knowing his dream of an Olympic medal was gone. Still, he got up and hobbled down the track. His father climbed out of the stands to help him.

With his arm over his father’s shoulder, Redmond finished the race, not in the way he had planned, but finish it he did. Here's the video.

Redmond has become a motivational speaker, helping others to see the value and potential in themselves.

Speaking of the Olympics, during the 2012 Summer Games, Nike featured a commercial entitled, “Find your greatness.” The scene is a remote country road. In the distance we see a runner making his way toward us, his sneakers (Nike, presumably) slapping against the road.

As the runner comes closer and we realize he’s a young boy, rather overweight, pushing himself to jog, we hear this voiceover:

“Greatness. It is just something we made up. Somehow we have come to believe that greatness is a gift, reserved for a chosen few, the prodigies, the superstars, and the rest of us can only stand by watching. You can forget that.

Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It’s not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We are all capable of it. All of us.”

I looked up the commercial online and learned that boy is a 12-year-old from Ohio named Nathan who is working hard to get healthy. Clearly, greatness is not beyond his reach.

I know that each of you has allowed your greatness to be seen and shared. No matter what you believe about life after this one, it is this life with which we have to work.

We need to remember that we are all capable of greatness. Call upon ourselves to use what is deep within us to make our lives the most meaningful they can be and, at the same time, to enrich the greater world through the lives we touch.

Look to those who help to center us, support us, push us and guide us through their actions, words or both. Allow what we observe and recognize in others to strengthen our own sense of greatness.

Utilizing our own gifts, knowing what we believe and striving for greatness within ourselves and seeing the greatness and value in others is what God hopes for us.

We are all members of God’s family, each one of us responsible to put into practice our gifts of greatness to make this world just that much better of a place in which to live.

So this time of year or better yet, the whole year through, take hold of your greatness within. You and those in the world around you will be greater still.

Your continued support of Guideposts Outreach ministry programs gives millions around the world the opportunity to see their greatness within. Thank you.

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