‘Wholehearted’ Meets ‘Lighthearted’

by tjbeitelman


I’m thinking about ‘wholehearted’ and ‘lighthearted’ right now. (And Abraham Lincoln. Obviously.)

Before recently, I would’ve said the two words aren’t related. I might’ve even said they’re mutually exclusive.

I would’ve been wrong.

For the Record:

I’m better at ‘wholehearted’ than I am at ‘lighthearted.’

‘Wholehearted’ shows up a lot in my creative life and in my life-life. ‘Lighthearted’? Not so much.

In my experience, ‘wholehearted’ can lead to ‘heavy-hearted.’

Probably there are reasons for this. I could make some guesses as to what they are, and I have, but I won’t burden anybody with them here.

But Abraham Lincoln?

When I get ‘heavy-hearted’ one thing I find myself doing is reading (and, yes, watching [and watching again] grandiose biopics) about Abraham Lincoln.

Probably there are reasons for this. I won’t burden you with my guesses on this subject either, except to say that Abraham Lincoln’s heart could be both whole and heavy, but his heart was also exceedingly light, sometimes to the chagrin of his cabinet and even his wife.

He often told stories and cracked long-winded jokes at what seemed to be the most stressful and inopportune times. It wasn’t that he was immune to the ungodly stress and heartache — personal, political, spiritual — that he endured throughout his presidency. Just look at the before and after pictures.

It was that he knew how crucial it was — for himself in particular — to find ways, regularly, to lighten his heart when it inevitably got heavy. Telling and listening to stories, laughing and making people laugh, sharing the camaraderie of a small inner circle of people he liked and respected — those were his ways.

He was also able to see the lightness in the heavy.

This ability to manage the full range of his enormous heart — what we might now refer to as his ’emotional intelligence’ — was his truest genius. It fundamentally informed what he wrote, how he made decisions, and how he conducted himself in the world.

He also happens to be one of the great writers, orators, and statesman the world has ever known.

The Takeaway:

I’m not a genius when it comes to ’emotional intelligence’ and I’m no great statesman. Nor am I one of the great writers the world has ever known.

But I can try to expand the full range of my heart. I can learn to manage it better, too.

And I have to believe — I do believe — wholeheartedly — that, in the process of doing so, I’ll become a better writer, a better teacher, and a better man.