Albert Schweitzer on Leading by Example

Parenting: Good news and a Tip from Rev. Jeff Gannon, Senior Pastor of Chapel Hill United Methodist Church

Rev. Jeff Gannon | St. Arbuck’s Chapel

I have always thought Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer looked like identical twins. Einstein, of course, was a physicist. Albert Schweitzer was a theologian, humanitarian, musician (pipe organist), and medical missionary.

They had a lot in common and yet one thing I didn’t know until recently was the amount of criticism that came Schweitzer’s way. My friend Steve May reminded me that some didn’t like his theology, others didn’t like his way of ministering to the poor and caring for the sick. So, naturally, they talked badly about him.

Instead of explaining himself or campaigning for himself or debating with the naysayers, he just kept working.

In a letter to a friend, he explained his reasoning:

“I decided that I would make my life my argument.”

As you no doubt know, over the course of time he won the argument. He did, ultimately, get the recognition he deserved, including a Nobel Peace Prize. Schweitzer wasn’t perfect, his theology wasn’t perfect, his methodology wasn’t perfect — but he decided that he wouldn’t spend his life promoting himself or defending himself. He left that to others, preferring to let his life, his work, and his actions speak for themselves.

I guess he remembered the words of Solomon…

Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)

Albert Schweitzer

Schweitzer also once said:

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

When it comes to setting a good example, no one can claim a perfect track record. Especially in this day and age, when your slightest misstep has the potential to go viral.

But what if — for today — we took Schweitzer’s words to heart. What if we were to say: I will make this day my argument. Today I will seek to influence others not with an abundance of words, not with a series of lectures, but with a living example of what the Christian life should be.

It takes longer to influence others with your life, to be sure. But the impact of your example goes far deeper than your words ever will.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

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One comment

  1. I read his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, when I was in my late twenties. Remembering his
    philosophy had a strong impact on me.

    Comment by Sally Buch on April 3, 2018 at 7:41 pm