George McClellan is one of the most frustrating men I know. Well, I don’t really know him since he has been dead for more than 130 years. But I know about him.
I like reading history books because I always learn something that applies to life today. Here are some recently learned (or relearned) lessons from Civil War days and the disappointing life of General George McClellan.
-Early success isn’t always helpful. McClellan entered West Point at 15 and graduated 2nd in his class. He became the leading General of the Union Army before he turned 35. He quickly developed what historian James M. McPherson calls a messiah complex. Too much praise too young is a dangerous thing. Struggles often teach better than promotions. Success doesn’t teach as well as we think.
-Pride comes before the fall. McClellan believed himself the smartest man in the room. He thought, therefore, his ideas best and it blinded him to the views of others. He thought himself superior to Lincoln and his strategies better. He was proudly wrong on both counts. Humility would have served him so well. Had he been humble enough to consider the views of others and to question his own judgment much of his career- not to mention the way he led the army- would have improved.
-We are often fooled by ability. Ability is different from execution. Ability speaks of potential. Execution speaks of results. McClellan had great potential but poor results. Free question for you- What is the greatest indicator of future success? If you answered other than “past results” you are fooling yourself. We are not bound by our past, of course. We can learn and overcome and improve. But ability is overrated while things like perseverance and tenacity are underrated.
-We are often fooled by appearance. McClellan looked the part of conquering hero. We are easily tricked by looks and dress and the externals. Lincoln was considered unattractive to most while McClellan was thought to be dashing. That did not make any difference in effectiveness. Be careful of judging by the externals. Humility reminds us of how easily we fall to judging by appearance. Christians, we should especially mind this warning.
This is national “learn from history” day. Okay, I made that last part up. But it should be. Have a great day and some humility to go with it!