Monday over Coffee

How Long the Good in Them Lasts…

 

“The true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts.”

— Queen Elizabeth II

 

In a few weeks, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first monarch in the long and storied history of the British empire to have served her people and country for seven full decades. She was only 25 when her father, King George VI, died in 1952, and she acceded to the throne. Now, at 95 years of age, Queen Elizabeth is the longest-serving female head of state in the history of the world.

 

The Queen has lived a remarkable life, reigning through a period of tumultuous political change in a time of significant cultural evolution and technological advancement. She, of course, also endured a number of episodes of acute family trauma. However, because she gives interviews only rarely, and it’s against the prevailing convention to ask her to reveal her views on public matters, relatively little is known about the queen’s personal feelings about the world or her place in it. Nevertheless, even before a compelling television series called The Crown was produced concerning the events of her life, it was clear that she’s always been a serious person who has executed her solemn duties with honor and dignity, placing the needs of state above her own personal desires. It’s also clear that she has accrued great wisdom over her long life in the public spotlight.

 

In 2014, speaking to British and French dignitaries at a state banquet on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, she recalled the loss of those who courageously fought on the beaches of Normandy. In expressing not only a deep appreciation for their sacrifice but earnest gratitude for the unity and renewed friendship forged between Great Britain and France during that time,  she made this profound statement: 

 

The true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts.

 

In such a high-velocity age, in a world of instant news—one in which instantaneous judgments are incentivized rather than discouraged—we often measure things short-sightedly. We esteem things which soon melt away like cotton candy. The queen’s words instead encourage us to weigh events and actions not by their immediate or apparent effect or by the acclaim they might generate initially, but rather by how the good in them might echo down and then persist into the future—that is, how they might influence for good the trajectory of lives well beyond our own.

 

Heroic acts, like those of the brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave their lives to establish a beachhead that liberated a whole continent from tyranny, are of course densely packed with a durable good. Such good effects cascade down through time, changing the course of history and the lives of untold millions.

 

But what of us? Certainly most of us won’t ever be called upon to make such a spectacular sacrifice, but we can nevertheless raise this same measuring stick up to our own lives. What seems to reliably create a good that lasts is the very thing that prompted the Queen’s words on that occasion in the first place—sacrifice. And while it certainly arises in her in a less dramatic form than a courageous soldier storming a fortified beach, the Queen’s devotion to duty and her people for over seventy years is a sacrifice she knows something about.

 

Her observation suggests that whether we are soldiers or first responders, faithful public servants, dutiful mothers, devoted fathers, children caring for aging parents, steadfast friends to friends in need, or simply good neighbors, it’s sacrifice that produces durability in the good we do. We know this intuitively, for it’s written on our hearts. Think about it. It’s the notion of sacrifice that moves us in story, in film, in history, in our relationships, and throughout our lives. We need to look no further than the Gospel itself to see that this is true. What we’re willing to sacrifice—of ourselves for the benefit of others—is what produces lasting good in the world. 

 

Do you want your life to produce a good that lasts? Well, then you have to ask yourself, “What did you sacrifice today from your own life for the good of another?” It’s a good measuring stick—one from a wise ruler.

 

God—May I take proper measure of the lasting effect of what I’m doing in the world and become willing to sacrifice more of myself for others today.

Amen.



—Greg Funderburk