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GRANT VS. CUSTER


There is a story of two Civil War Generals: George A. Custer and Ulysses S. Grant. Both graduated from West Point--Gen. Grant, being the oldest, graduated in the 1840's and Gen. Custer in 1861. Grant fought in several wars and was a field General in every sense of the word. In 1865, he was the one who forced Robert E. Lee to surrender to the north.


At the surrendering ceremony, Grant wore a mud-splattered uniform of a private, with general shoulder pads sewed on. He was the picture of a man who was a worker and had just finished a job. He said he took no glory in the surrender of a fellow general. Gen. Grant was a humble man and an excellent leader.


When Gen. Custer graduated West Point, he went from 2nd Lieutenant to Brigadier General in less than two years. When he assumed command of his brigade in 1863, he wore a black velveteen uniform with gold braid from the elbows to the cuffs of his sleeves, and a golden feather in the hatband of his dress hat. He was known to have the brashest of attitudes and a personality that one newspaper columnist of the time described as "the personality of a childish upstart."


Gen. Grant listened to his advisers and led his troops into victory, winning nearly every battle he fought. Gen. Custer led his troops into a deathly defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He had been given advice to detour and go to another front, but the general "knew best" and rejected the advice of his second in command. He ordered a full attack. The only living survivor of that brigade was one horse.


Custer dressed to impress, Grant dressed for work. Custer wanted to be noticed. Grant wanted to win. I wonder, if they had both been sitting at the dinner in the days of Jesus parable, which one would have quickly taken the seat of high honor and which one would have gladly taken the seat of less honor? Like my father said to me, "A great man is always willing to live in the shadows of his success." And of course, which general had the greatest success in what he did?


We certainly make many choices in our daily lives, and it is in these choices that we can learn how to apply the lessons we have learned about humility. Custer made a choice to ignore his advisor, because he thought he alone knew best. His ended up riding his pride into the grave because he was not humble enough to accept another point of view.


I think one of the best ways to learn what humility is and what is can do for you is through service to others. Jesus set the example at the Last Supper when He, the Creator of all, stooped down to wash His disciples' feet.


(From a sermon by Bruce Ball, "Oh Lord! It's Hard To Be Humble!" 4/22/2011)

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