1. The Lord of the Rings – a trilogy of movies written by JRR Tolkien
2. The Sigma Protocol – novel by Robert Ludlum
I have always believed that in religion, you can never know the true nature of a man unless u give him the greatest desires of his heart. That thing which we most desire – how we go about getting it, what we do when it is offered to us and what price we will pay to get it are to me the truest measure of one’s self mastery and personal leadership. For if you haven’t mastered yourself, if you lack personal leadership, how can u truely lead others? Stephen Covey calls it (self mastery, personal leadership) the private victory in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. He also makes the point which I agree with that private victory must always precede public victory. John Maxwell says people will only follow a person who has higher leadership ability that them and when and individual mindfully works on his own self mastery, personal leadership or private victory – the leadership ability grows tremendously … making it more likely that other people will follow them.
“Vanity!! my favourite sin” as Al Pacino says in the “Devil’s Advocate” is the most subtle way to destroy any person especially when the not so subtle ways fail. The movie “The Devil’s Advocate” itself is a good lesson in how humans can triumph in the face of great evil only to fall into the same great darkness under the influence of vanity – when wealth and power failed to get the lawyer Kevin ….. how did the devil finally corner Kevin? – he played on his vanity! – praised him as the only lawyer with a conscience and boy! Kevin fell for that (though thankfuly the movie doesn’t show us the details of the fall).
In the novel ‘The Sigma Protocol’, some of the world’s most powerful and ‘upright’ people, even former enemies are ready to abandon everything they hold dear for the promise of a long life and immortality. The evil scientist Gerhard Lenz – a Nazi war criminal who carried horrible experiments on human beings ends up being chosen as the leader of the whole world (behind the scenes) because he offers to very powerful individuals the same thing that feeds their vanity and huge egos – “You’ve worked so much your entire life and just at the point when u attain mastery in your profession, old age sets in and you start and tumble towards the grave, how would you want to halt or reverse your aging so the world can benefit from your immense expertise and mastery?” – boy!! even a Nazi hunter falls for it as do most of the worlds very powerful people – all neglecting the fact that the treatment involves the death of hundreds or thousands of innocent children. The problem with an appeal to our vanity is that it always makes sense … shockingly, I agreed with the evil doctor’s aguement that the death of progeria kids and refugees to give life to a few of the world’s elite is good for the growth of civilization! and so I came face to face with an dark side of myself — I know how much I strive for perfection and self mastery (see my blog “In Search of Excellence & Perfection”) and I am nowhere near it. When I do achieve it, would I really pass up the chance to consolidate on that mastery by artifically elongating my life especially if a child who is going to die anyway makes the ultimate sacrifice? May God keep me from having to make that choice.
In the lord of the Rings – the temptation comes through this magical ring that is supposed to make the wearer of it the enormous power. Again, the ring manipulates the wearer by appealing to his vanity,his ego, his need to be in power, to command and control and rule over others. And when they put it on, destruction comes.
A friend once showed me a quote “When you give up the need to control things and people, you achieve freedom” – the need to control things and people is a property of our ego, our vanity and ultimate leadership means relinquishing that need. However, by caring for others, by standing true to principles or right and light, when others see that we have passed the test of ego and vanity, they can give us that power of control – and how we deal with it has lots of temptations of its own and will be a continuing test of our integrity.