What helped keep Abraham Lincoln going?

No one knows exactly what inner strengths Abraham Lincoln possessed to endure all of the trials and tribulations he faced as President of the United States during the Civil War. It is well known that he employed humor. In fact, he once said that he had to laugh to keep from crying. His ability to find humor in even the most stressful of situations had to be life-saving for him. Many people misunderstood Lincoln’s use of humor. They would become annoyed-thinking that he wasn’t really taking things seriously. Humor was his tool for coping-and it proved very effective.

There was, perhaps, another strength Lincoln had that was more philosophical in nature. It was a deep rooted understanding in the brevity of life-and that all things will pass. As bad as things were for Lincoln who led the nation through its most terrible conflict-he seemed to draw reserve from this eternal truth: nothing lasts forever. James C. Humes relates the following story in his book A. Lincoln:The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln to help illuminate his thinking:

“After Lincoln’s election, an army of job-seekers swarmed upon the White House. Interviewing them was one presidential job Lincoln found most distasteful. Few men have ever possessed the patience of Lincoln; but even his was taxed on these occasions. Once, after a particularly unqualified man had just called upon him for a government job, Lincoln said to his aide John Hay after he left:


“Well, a ruler once asked his advisors if there was one maxim that could be truly applied in all times and situations. The advisors returned and presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’


“How much it expresses,” said Lincoln. “How chastening to the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affiction.”


Ah, “this, too, shall pass away”-there is Lincoln’s comforting thought. His humor was helpful, indeed very helpful-but his belief in the “transcendent truth,” as Humes calls it-that all things will pass-sustained him.

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