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Most courageous victory is that of self control

There are times when those who can’t control themselves are held in high esteem and become our leaders. Here are two recent instances of this in the U.S. and Korea. The mayor of San Diego was arrested on the morning of Dec. 10 and now has to wear an electric ankle bracelet for the rest of his life. He was brought in on charges of sexually harassing 19 women in the city government. Of course, he resigned from office and appeared on TV to apologize to the women he wronged as well as to the citizens of San Diego.

In news closer to home, President Park Geun-hye accepted the resignation of the country’s top prosecutor. He is embroiled in a scandal involving an alleged illegitimate son. He offered to resign on Sept. 13, which was a week after the country’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, raised such allegations in its report. He denied the allegations, but said that he was resigning due to the fact that they would make it difficult for him to carry out his duties as chief prosecutor. What a disgrace! These are not isolated cases. There are so many incidents of this kind that we can hardly count them.

Well-educated, intelligent, respectable and successful people are sometimes arrested and tender their resignations for crossing the thin gray line between right and wrong. They too have a conscience, but they put it aside or completely forget about it when they engage in sex scandals or sexual harassment. These impudent people often cross the fine line not simply because they are unnoticed, but actually because they lack high moral and ethical standards.

While living in this world, we may be tempted to do wrong. When this happens, we need to say “No!” to ourselves. Foolish people take ominous and evil thoughts into their hearts and spend time judging whether they are right or wrong, even though they already know the answer. On the other hand, wise and intelligent people prevent such thoughts from coming into their brain, stop what they are doing, turn around and say, “This is wrong. I must not do that.” In the Bible, Jesus said that those involved in sex scandals should have their eyes pulled out. Imagine yourself moving through life without eyes. Therefore, we should learn early in life to say “No!” in when we are tempted to do something wrong, illegal or illegitimate.

Our lives involve not only a struggle for existence, but also a fight against ourselves. In reality, to conquer others we must first vanquish ourselves. It is absurd for someone who can’t control himself to be a leader. A stupid leader kills not only himself but also those around him. In Aesop’s fable, the head and the tail of a snake argue about which one goes in the front. The head says to the tail, “You have no eyes and you can’t see anything. How can you be the leader?” The tail then says, “Why can’t I be the leader when you can?” So, the tail takes the lead. As the tail crawls ahead, he falls off a cliff, bruises his entire body and dies.

The late psychologist Ahn Byung-wook said, “There are numerous enemies in our heart. Egoism, cowardice, indolence, easiness, feebleness, irresponsibility, frustration ― these are all factors that hamper our improvement, progress and victory.” If we have leaders who cannot combat all these inner enemies, then we will easily come to be reduced to people who are cowardly, irresponsible and idle. Therefore, we ought to be human beings capable of strong self-denial and self-control.

While it is important to win the competition with others in sports, business, exams and elections, it is still more important to win the war against ourselves. Those who have achieved great works in the world and who are held in high esteem have always been persons who went through serious inner fights with themselves and won courageous victories in these battles.

By Kim In-hwan

Kim In-hwan has taught English for the past 46 years. He holds an M.A. in applied linguistics from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in the English language from Daegu University in Korea. He can be reached at likebosskim@daum.net. ― Ed.
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