October 9, 2002
volume 13, no. 112

E-mail       Print
It's the Little Things that Count

    Our lives for the most part are made up of little things, and by these our character is to be tested. There are very few who have to take a prominent place in the great conflicts of ouir age; the vast majority must dwell in humbler scenes and be content to do a more humble work. The conflicts which we have to endure either against evil in our own soul or in the moral circle where our influence would seem to be trivial are in reality the struggle of the battle for life and decency; and true heroism is shown here as well as in those grander scales in which others win the leader's fame or the martyr's crown. Little duties carefully discharged; little temptations earnestly resisted with the strength which God supplies; little sins crucified; these all together help to form that character which is to be described not as popular or glamorous, but as moral and noble.

    From God's point of view nothing is great, nothing is small as we measure it. The worth and the quality of any action depends upon its motive and not at all upon its prominence or any of the other accidents which we are apt to adopt as standards of greatness. Nothing is small that can be done from a mighty motive, such as the mite which the widow dropped into the Temple treasury. Conscience knows no such word as "large" or "small;" it knows only two words, "right" and "wrong." "He who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive the reward given to prophets," because though not gifted with the prophet's tongue he has the prophet's spirit and does his small act of hospitality from the very same prophetic impulse which in another and one more loftily endowed leads to burning words and mighty deeds.

    A man is much more inclined to concentrate his moral actions in one great moment and thereby often wins the merit of a hero. A woman, on the contrary, scatters her tiny little sacrifices through life and multiplies them to such an extent that very few give her credit for sacrifice because it has been so multiplied.

    In the spiritual order it is much easier to do some mighty act of self-surrender than daily and patiently to crucify the flesh with all of its inordinate affections. The smallest duties are often harder, because of their apparent insignificance and their constant recurrence. Unfaithfulness in little things can also prepare for unfaithfulness in the great. By a small act of injustice the line which separates the right from the wrongs is just as effectively broken. Infidelity in little things deteriorates the moral sense; it makes a person untrustworthy; it loosens the ties that bind society together, and it is a counteracting agency of that Divine Love which ought to be the cement of good human relationships.

    Men in public life who are accused of confiscating great sums of money or else profiting by their office to secure gifts or enrich themselves in any manner whatsoever, began with unfaithfulness in the minor details of life. Somewhere and somehow the wall and partition between right and wrong had to be broken down, and what is tragic about our national situation is that there is no longer a moral indignation against such infractions of the law of honesty.

    Little things make up the universe. The clouds gather up the rain and moisture and part with them in drops; time is so precious that it is given out second by second; stars do not leap about in their orbits but keep a measured pace. In like manner, humans will find little to do if they save their energy for great occasions. In every direction the great is reached through the little. The turning of a tiny needle steadily toward a fixed point is a little common thing, but it guides navies along the uncharted seas. The most significant trifle becomes a great thing if the alternative of obedience or rebellion is involved in it. To live by the day and to watch each step is the true pilgrimage method, for there is nothing little if God requires it.

October 9, 2002
volume 13, no. 112
Return to Current Issue