Sacrificing Self


The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

Self-Sacrificing Leadership

What is your inclination? When it comes to work, generally our inclination is to leave as soon as possible, get home and watch some Netflix. When it comes to relationships, generally our inclination is to find people that agree with us, like us, and make us feel good then spend our time with them. When it comes to how we take care of ourselves, generally our inclination is to eat what tastes good and do what feels good.

There is just one problem – generally our inclination is selfish. And if there is anything that life teaches you very quickly, it is that selfishness is a sad, empty way to live.

On the other hand, what is your duty? When it comes to work, if you have made a commitment, your duty is to fulfill the number of hours or complete the assigned task. When it comes to relationships, we have a duty to leave others better for having met us by encouraging them and speaking truth into their lives. When it comes to how we take care of ourselves, our duty is to be a good steward of the life we have been blessed with.

More often than not, duty and inclination are diametrically opposed to each other.

Washington’s inclination was to fade into retirement and enjoy the fruits of freedom that his labor had created. However, he wisely realized that while no one would probably blame him for doing so, his inclination would result in ruin for this new country. He realized that his duty was to insure the country was on firm footing before he made his exit.

He sacrificed his inclination to what he knew what was his duty.

It is interesting to note here that the duty that Washington felt was not assigned to him by any outside source. This was a duty that he took upon himself. Something to think about.

The Foreign Nation Situation

Washington’s actions demonstrated a deference to what others desired. This kind of selfless, sacrificial leadership is the reason he is the historical hero that he is.

A true leader considers the future of others before their own future. After Washington led the Continental Army to victory at Yorktown, he knew that the real work was just beginning. His future retired on his farm in Virginia, enjoying the domestic felicity he so longed for, was the future he desired for himself. However, that consideration came after the consideration for the future of his fellow countrymen.

After the war was officially over, America was on shaky ground on the international stage. Britain was angry over its loss and perhaps not completely ready to admit defeat. Other foreign nations were hovering like vultures, waiting and watching to see what would happen.

With the precarious situation, Washington knew America would be in need of a leader that understood what needed to be done. This is where a good leader has to be careful to avoid ‘savior syndrome’ while still doing an honest assessment of their ability.

‘Savior syndrome’ is where you come to the faulty conclusion that you, and only you, are able to solve the problem. A good leader understands that while they are replaceable, they have particular skills that they can use to help solve the problem.

Washington was aware of his limitations, but he also understood his skills and abilities. With humility, he took on the duty and did his best from there. That is what a good leader does.

Advice of Persons Entitled to My Confidence

Speaking of humility, good leaders understand the value of advice. They do not depend 100% on their own ability to reason.

Washington was so ready to retire, that he had already written up a farewell address. He was ready to go. But several factors made him stop. One of the main factors was the advice of persons entitled to his confidence.

I love this phrase. It has so much depth. Washington was not just taking advice from people he liked. He was not just taking advice from his buddies. The criteria for Washington heeding advice was that it had to come from people who had acted in such a way as to gain Washington’s confidence.

This is an important lesson to learn. There will never be a shortage of advice. Think of online reviews. They are a dime a dozen. Where do you look when trying to make a big purchase decision when shopping online? You check the expert websites. You don’t want to hear from just anybody. You want to hear from someone who has taken the time to gain your confidence.

Everyone needs trusted advisors. A different perspective is extremely valuable no matter what kind of decision you are trying to make. But you can’t just take any perspective. Whoever your advisors happen to be, they should be people that have a record that you can look at and determine if they are entitled to your confidence.


Nobody wanted Washington to retire. He could have stayed in office until his death. Amazing how things change. The main problem with politicians these days is that they won’t retire.

This due in large part to public service being a road to wealth. Many in power are not there to sacrifice for the benefit of their country. Self-sacrifice could not be further from their mind. Considering the situation of others instead of their own? Forget it.

I say “many in power” because I still believe there are some good leaders out there. Some ‘mini-Washingtons’ that understand what real leadership looks like. They may be few and far between, but they exist. And even if you believe I am wrong and that they do not exist, my question to you is – Will you be one of those leaders?

Jonathan Paine
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