Think about your greatest strength. It is also your greatest weakness. Like two sides of a coin, your greatest asset is simultaneously your greatest liability.
My greatest strength is my drive and competence. I’m always planning for tomorrow. It’s also my greatest weakness, driving away those I love through my demands and criticism. By living in my future goals, I sacrifice the moment and undermine trust in God.
My wife’s greatest strength is her love, kindness and ability to enjoy the moment. It is also her greatest weakness when she enables instead of holding others accountable. The future does not always take care of itself.
If you take an honest assessment of your own personality, you will find this to be true and enlightening.
Mississippi’s greatest strength is its love of history, sense of roots and respect for its unique traditions. No other state has less geographic mobility than Mississippi. This is our home, we love it here, we respect our ancestors who paved the way. I love this about Mississippi.
But our respect for tradition has also been our greatest weakness. It makes us cling to the past when clinging to the past no longer makes sense. Sometimes, we make an idol of tradition.
This is what we did by clinging to the Confederate battle flag emblem on our state flag. We made an idol of tradition when it no longer made sense. It made us an embarrassment to the rest of the nation. What was simply devotion to tradition to us, looked like the embrace of a terrorist symbol to others. It was time to change.
Well, lo and behold, we did. Praise the Lord, we can learn and move on. The state legislature did the right thing and voted to change our flag. Will miracles never cease?
As far as deep Mississippi roots and tradition go, I’ll match my family’s Mississippi ancestry against anybody’s. My children are seventh generation Mississippians 28 times over. Twenty-eight of their 32 great great great grandparents were Mississippians. Dozens of our ancestors died in the War Between the States. Our blood runs very deep in this state. I was born here. I will die here. It could be no other way for me.
Like most Mississippians, I was initially appalled at the idea of changing our flag. But over time and through reflection, my opinion changed. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit worked in me and made me realize how the Confederate battle emblem could be seen by our African American brothers and sisters as a symbol of hate and subjugation.
It is that same Holy Spirt that was at work this past weekend in the state legislature, when miraculously our representatives voted overwhelmingly to change the flag. It just goes to show. People can change. With God, nothing is impossible.
I give Speaker of the House Philip Gunn credit for early on advocating changing the flag. I give Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann credit for changing the attitude in the state senate. When Gov. Tate Reeves declared he would not veto such a bill, the floodgates opened. We can all change.
I give Scott Waller and the board of the Mississippi Economic Council credit for gathering dozens of powerful signatures on an ad calling for change. I give Mississippi editorial writers, what few that remain, credit for numerous editorials calling for change. I give credit to numerous organizations and associations that mustered the courage to call for change. I give credit to thousands of individuals who spoke out publicly for change.
Just please remember, we were all just agents through which the Holy Spirit did its work. God gets all the power and glory.
Something else happened this same week that made me shake my head in wonder. Lazarus Chakwera, a Christian minister, was elected president of Malawi, in one of the most stunning upsets in African history.
It seems like just yesterday, Lazarus was sitting in my office talking with me about the huge challenges facing his impoverished country. Some readers may recall the column.
I wrote him a check, as did many other Northsiders at a fundraiser at the house of Mike Espy in Madison. I didn’t think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning. I viewed the donation as sort of a tithe.
Lazarus lost the first time he ran, defeated by the brother of the previous president. It looked liked yet another story of rigged nepotism and African hopelessness.
But Lazarus Chakwera refused to give up. Six months ago, he lost again in yet another rigged election. Then lo and behold, another miracle happened.
The white out on the election totals was so obvious that the Malawi electoral commission demanded a new election. This time Lazarus Chakwera won by a landslide. It is the first time in African history that an election overturned by the judiciary resulted in the defeat of an incumbent president. African political observers are beside themselves over the significance of this event.
Mississippi played a key role in this event by helping to fund this unlikely candidate, who appears to be the antithesis to the self-dealing tyrants plaguing that continent.
It all relates back to the Chinchin family and Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church which established a powerful seminary in Llongwe, the capital of Malawi. Literally hundreds of ministers were trained there and have helped make Malawi a faithful country.
You can read the story about the Mississippi-Malawi connection in a book by Nell Robertson Chinchin titled “The Yankee Solder and the Southern Belle.” It is one unfolding miracle after another.
I eventually got caught up in this unfolding miracle through an organization called Clean Water for Malawi, founded by Northsider Victor Smith, which drilled hundreds of water wells in Malawi and has provided clean water to a half million Malawians.
It was a great privilege to go to Africa and witness firsthand the same astounding miracles that powered the Chinchin family. I could write a book.
And now decades later from the first move, Lazarus Chakwera, a Christian minister, has become president of the entire country.
We should not fear change. We should embrace it. Although change may seem scary and even threatening, God is the ultimate change agent. Our job is to remain faithful and work as hard as providence allows.
Speaking of change, we all know the digital landscape is disrupting traditional media such as newspapers. I feared this change for years. Now I embrace it and have never been more excited about the future.
Scott Waller, Mississippi Economic Council president, called me Wednesday before the historic vote. Things were moving fast. He knew it was too late for our print deadlines. Was there anything we could do to publish the change-the-flag ad with the dozens of signatures?
As it turns out, we had just installed state-of-the-art software that allows us to place a high resolution ad instantly on our newspaper websites throughout the state. By the time the legislature voted, over 100,000 Mississipians had viewed the ad online. Perhaps we made a difference.
Don’t fear. Stay faithful. Embrace change.