Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Life Lesson from Benedict Arnold

Most of us are familiar with the name of Benedict Arnold, one of the most famous (or rather infamous) military figures in U.S. history.  Born in 1741, Arnold was a strong patriot and capable military leader and strategist in the early years of the American Revolution.  He led several successful military campaigns for the American forces against the British and as a result, George Washington appointed him as a military commander in Philadelphia.  There Arnold's loyalties began to shift.  He was passed over for promotion on several occasions by the Continental Congress and he viewed them as petty, bickering incompetents.  (Some might suggest at this point that history repeats itself, but I'm not going there). 

By 1779, Arnold became convinced that the best path forward was to rejoin the British Empire and he secretly aligned himself with the British loyalists.  In his role as a double agent, Arnold engaged in a conspiracy to allow the British troops to defeat the American forces under his command at West Point.  Before the plan could be enacted, Arnold's British contact was discovered and subsequently hanged.  Arnold fled to the British for safety and was made a brigadier general in their army, later leading an invasion of Virginia.  He served with the British until their defeat at Yorktown in 1781, at which point he moved to London.

Arnold is best remembered today as a famous traitor to the cause of American freedom.  A man with great potential and leadership capacity allowed perceived personal slights against him to sway his allegiance to his country.  The question arises as to whether we might also be guilty of harboring hurts and resentment regarding wrongs that we consider others have directed against us.  Practicing forgiveness and seeking reconciliation is a lot healthier course of action than growing embittered and forfeiting friendships.  May Arnold's negative behavior serve as an example for us to avoid as we live out our faith.