By Joshua Feibelman
I’d like to share with you a story.
There was once a man who, from a young age, possessed the gift of great intellectual ability. During the time his peers were learning to walk, he was learning to speak. When his peers were learning to speak, he was learning to compose sentences and calculate equations. When his peers were learning to compose sentences and calculate equations, he was learning to hold his own in argument and debate. His remarkable aptitude rendered him an intellectual prodigy, no doubt! By the time he was a man, there was no one who could surpass him in debate, and his knowledge surpassed all others in leaps and bounds.
Now, there was a second man who, from a young age, was very strong willed. When he was young, he forced his way with his parents, getting everything he could possibly want out of them. He grew up thinking that he could do anything if only he tried hard enough. He learned to never back down. He learned to never give in. Above all, he learned that no one could defeat his will unless he permitted it. By the time he was a man, there was no one who could will something more powerfully than he.
We have met the man of great intellect and the man of great will. But before the story can continue, we must introduce the third man: the man of great heart. As a child, he loved all the animals, and they always approached him. As he grew older, younger children would approach him to listen to the wisdom of his speech. He didn’t have extensive knowledge, but he listened to them. He understood their hearts, their longings, their fears, and their desires. He comforted them and shared with them his hope. For he knew that their yearnings could only fulfilled in a gift of self. By the time he became a man, he certainly didn’t have the greatest intellect or the surest will, but he understood that an act of love is a personal sacrifice.
Although these three men did not know one another, it so happened that they lived in the same town. One day, a powerful enemy came against their town.
The man of intellectual prowess said to himself, “I will go out and engage the enemy in a battle of wits. Indeed he cannot be more intelligent than I, and if I defeat him, which I shall, I shall make him promise to spare the town.”
Upon thinking this, he went out and engaged in a battle of wits with the enemy. And his wit was superior. And yet the strength of the enemy remained.
Seeing the failure of the intellectual man, the man of strong will said to himself, “I will challenge the enemy to a duel, and I will defeat him.”
Upon thinking this, he went out and challenged the enemy. They dueled and dueled. Finally, the man of strong will struck the enemy down. Yet the enemy immediately grew back, even more powerful and fearsome than before.
At this, the man of great heart decided to take up the gauntlet. He didn’t think to himself of his own greatness with which he would strike down the enemy, no. He knew what he had to do.
He went to the enemy and said to him, “Sir, I come to hand you my life.”
The man of great heart knew that an act of total sacrificial love would destroy the enemy. The enemy gloated over his words, and he quickly took the life of the man of great heart into his hands. But immediately upon doing so, the enemy found that his power had vanished. Indeed, he had been utterly destroyed. And thus, it was not the power of the intellect, nor the power of the will, but rather the strength of a man’s heart which was truly able to overcome the wickedness of the enemy. And because of that man’s sacrifice of love, the town was again freed to live in peace.
When I think of the fears and doubts that often plague men’s hearts, I find that these fears and doubts often point to the intellect or the will. As a man, I often fear that I am not smart enough or that I don’t have what it takes. These doubts and fears belie the falsehood that our masculine strength is located in our intellect or in our wills. And yet, as the story shows, the strength of a man is found in his heart. The strength of a man is his ability for self-sacrificial love, and this is rooted in and emanates from man’s heart. As men, we must look to Christ on the Cross, for He is the perfect example of one who draws strength from His heart. And so I exhort you, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13). And be of great heart. Amen.