An ancient Greek legend goes that when Achilles defeated Hector, he stripped his enemy’s corpse and dragged it around along his conquest from behind his chariot. Victory, humiliation, domination; Achilles treated the Trojan prince like any other piece of meat, like a war trophy, like anything else that may catch the dust from his horses’ hooves and his chariot’s wheels.
Appalled by the treatment of the hero’s body, the king of Troy then knelt before Achilles to offer Hector’s weight in gold, in exchange for the body. It was then that Achilles had a chilling revelation that his own death will come soon; perhaps, he thought, through a fate worse than that of his fallen foe.
Years later, Paris shot an arrow into Achilles’ heel. Achilles died. Ah, hubris… ain’t it a bitch.
It’s almost always the case that no matter how right we think we are, we’ll always be proven wrong in one way or another. We all have to take that big bite of humble pie and swallow it whole.
Some people say, “Look at me; I came from this-and-that before, and look at where I am now.” That’s cool and all, but I realized that I’m the type of person who wouldn’t settle for anything other than the prospect of reaching something greater. As long as life goes on, I’ll always pay my dues, or figure out a way to pay them. I came from this-and-that before, just like everyone else, and at my age, there’s nowhere to go but up. And as soon as I’m there, there’s always that one mistake that I can make that can send me crashing down.
“Where I am now” is the best departure point for me – or anyone else, for that matter – to go back to the this-and-that. If I’m going to say that I’ve gone “this far,” I better look way, way ahead and realize how many people have gone further than I have gone so far. And if I’m going to say that I’ve gone “this far,” I better look down on my feet and realize how much of a beaten path I’m treading.
It sucks to learn humility, or prudence for that matter. I say “learn,” because pride – the kind that almost always comes in excess – is innate in every human being. We all have the urge to rub things in, to call attention to our triumphs over adversities, to tell our own inspirational stories, and make the mistake of dragging people down just because we admire ourselves and our accomplishments so much.
I don’t have much in the way of life experience given my age, but I think I’m wise enough to know this: every time I have my head up in the clouds, I should make it a point to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. Every possibility for greatness comes with the curt and fair warning that mediocrity is very possible. If I drag people along, there will come a time that I’ll be dragged along.
Honor does not have to come at the cost of shame.