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A practicing lawyer loved to attack his opponents through scathing letters printed in newspapers. In 1842, he ridiculed the wrong man. James Shields did not take kindly to the anonymous writer who lampooned him in the Springfield Journal.

Mr. Shields tracked down the attorney who had publicly embarrassed him and challenged him to a duel. The man was a writer, not a fighter, but he could not get out of the duel without losing his honor. He was given the choice of weapons and chose swords in hopes of using his long arms to his advantage. He trained with a West Point graduate as he prepared to fight to the death.

On the appointed day he met Mr. Shields on a sandbar in the Mississippi River. At the last minute their seconds intervened and convinced the men to stop the duel. The lawyer returned to his practice as a changed man. Never again did he openly criticize anyone. In fact, years later when he heard his wife criticize the southern people of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said, "Don't criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances."

Do you have a critical spirit? Lincoln did, but he changed.

(How to Win Friends and influence People, Dale Carnegie, 1981, p9-10. From a sermon by Perry Greene, Critiquing the Critic, 8/8/2012)

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