On the slope of Long’s Peak in Colorado lies the ruin of a gigantic tree. Naturalists tell us that it stood for some four hundred years. It was a seedling when Columbus landed at San Salvador, and half grown when the pilgrims settled at Plymouth.
During the course of its long life it was struck by lightning fourteen times and the innumerable avalanches and storms of four centuries thundered past it. It survived them all. In the end, however, an army of beetles attacked the tree and leveled it to the ground. The insects ate their way through the bark and gradually destroyed the inner strength of the tree through their tiny but incessant attacks. A forest giant which age had not withered, nor lightning blasted, nor storms subdued, fell at last before beetles so small that a person could crush them between thumb and forefinger.
There is a parallel in this story which should serve as a warning to all of us. Most of us can survive times of crisis. We can summon the strength, faith, or resolve to survive any battle that we face head on. Whether it is in our professional or personal lives, we often overcome great obstacles. It is the small things like jealousy, anger, resentment, pettiness and negativity that eat us from the inside, which often bring about our downfall. Unlike a giant tree, we can identify and fight those moral or ethical ‘beetles’.
We must, however, be constantly on guard.
Author: Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick