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December 15, 1994

TAKING ACTION

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The Power of One is definitely put to the test as we choose right over wrong each day. Ultimately the test of true character is what we do when no one is watching.

1. Is there an area of your life that you would change upon finding out that your boss was watching you?

2. Can you think of a situation in which you chose to do wrong and didn’t get caught?

3. Would you like someone to make this choice at your expense?

4. How can you prevent yourself from making that same choice again if given the opportunity?

5. Can you identify the pressure points that cause you to feel the temptation to make wrong choices?

6. Who in your life is a model of making choices with integrity?

7. What can you learn from that person? What is his or her motivation? What is his or her standard for making the choices?

Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.—Unknown

On July 31, 1834, 800,000 slaves in the British Empire were set free. That day was the culmination of a very determined effort, led for more than 46 years by one man: William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce served in Parliament from 1780 to 1825. During a visit to the Continent in 1785, he noticed that his friend, who was traveling with him, was reading A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. The two men agreed to read and study the book together, and it had a profound impact on Wilberforce’s life. As a result he introduced the first legislation against trading slaves to the House of Commons in 1788.

Wilberforce concluded the 3.5-hour oration with the statement: “Sir, when we think of eternity and the future consequence of all human conduct, what is there in this life that shall make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice and the law of God!”

Despite that rousing oration, the motion failed.

Wilberforce brought the motion up again every year for 18 years, until a bill in 1806 finally made the trading of slaves illegal. He then introduced a campaign to abolish slavery altogether in the British Empire, and that bill was passed on July 29, 1833—a full 46 years later. Four days later, Wilberforce died—his mission accomplished. Almost exactly one year later, the slaves were set free.

It took Wilberforce almost half a century to accomplish the task, and it was done in two lengthy stages: first making the trading of slaves illegal, then abolishing slavery itself. That perseverance, in the face of vigorous economic, cultural, and political opposition, is what also set the stage for slavery to be abolished in the United States.

Wilberforce had many opportunities in which he could have given up. He had 46 years worth of obstacles!

Take the golden challenge and don’t give up. Persevere in doing the good, the right, and the true. You’ll benefit, others will benefit, and you won’t have to pay the price for choices made out of laziness, convenience, or fear of opposition.

When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of their target. To improve your aim, improve yourself.–Gilbert Arland

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