I am no film critic, but Daniel Day Lewis’s mastery of Abraham Lincoln inspired me deeply. He captured a man filled not only with political skill and vision, but with a deep spirituality and understanding of the human condition.
In every book I read or film I see, I try to find sparks of spiritual wisdom. Lincoln provides them in spades. Here are my top ten:
1. Courage under fire: Lincoln faced relentless criticism from his opponents and those within his own party. He stayed attuned to his North Star, engaging with critics without losing his vision.
2. Compassion at all times: The film is filled with scenes of Lincoln reaching out to those who disagree with him, speaking to them with empathy and kindness.
3. Patience: Lincoln did not achieve all his objectives at one time. He kept his goal in mind, and each decision and action pointed to his final goal.
4. Resolve: Even with compassion and patience, Lincoln never gave up on his achieving the end of slavery. It would have been much easier settle for less, especially when his advisors suggested he do so. Like the greatest leaders in history, he did not.
5. The Power of Story: Lincoln tells stories throughout the film. At first, they seem unconnected to the issue at hand. Yet, by the time he finishes them, we see the wisdom they carry. Stories inspire in a way facts and figures cannot.
6. Humility: Lincoln did not let his position get in the way of working in the trenches. His objective was so important to him that he did what he needed to do without suggesting it was somehow beneath him.
7. Communication: Good ideas and goals left unexpressed mean little. The ability to communicate them, as Lincoln did so eloquently, makes all the difference.
8. Remember your ultimate purpose: One of the film’s most moving scenes is when General Ulysses S. Grant receives the defeated General Robert E. Lee with great dignity. The Union’s objective was not to humiliate the South, but to restore the Union.
9. Use power for the good, not for ourselves: The film makes much of the public popularity Lincoln enjoyed. He did not use that for selfish ends. He used it to end slavery and preserve the union. Wherever we are in life, we need to use the power we have for purposes larger than ourselves.
10. Find ultimate peace with ourselves and one another: The film’s closing scene shows Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Addresses, one of the great speeches in human history. He says those magnificent lines that defined his political and spiritual outlook, and which can guide us still:
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;
to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”