To many, Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president in American history. When visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, his statue gives the impression of a well groomed, fashionably dressed, handsome figure. However, history tells us a different story. His lack of fashionable style caused onlookers to point and snicker.
For example, in his attempt to unify the Republican party for a strong presidential run in the election of 1860, Lincoln made a visit to New England. While there he stopped to see his son Robert who was a student at the Phillips Exeter Academy. Robert’s friends were later invited to hear Lincoln speak, and nearly 500 people showed up.
At that engagement Robert’s friends were shocked at Lincoln’s appearance. He came into the hall tall and awkward, dressed in baggy black trousers falling short around the ankles. His hair was uncombed, and his necktie cranked to one side. Lincoln’s tall legs didn’t fit underneath the table or around the chair.
One of the boys remarked, “Isn’t it a shame that Robert’s dad is so homely? Don’t you feel sorry for him?” He didn’t fit the mold of a well-groomed, polished New England politician.
In David Herbert Donald’s biography of Lincoln he writes, “But after Lincoln disentangled his legs, rose slowly from his chair, and began speaking, they forgot his appearance; they no longer pitied Robert but felt proud to know his father.”
Things haven’t changed. In our age we are fixated on appearance. Image is everything. Our selfies are carefully chosen, and often polished and digitally enhanced. We go into debt buying brand name jeans, and wear spanks so we can squeeze into them.
When Lincoln spoke people forgot about his appearance and fell in love with his person. The quality of his mind, heart, and character made him one of history’s greatest leaders.
The life lesson is clear. In a superficial age, let’s give ourselves to beautifying the interior of our lives. Remember, when we start speaking people forget about our appearance.
When it comes to building our interior life, think of the old computer adage, “Garbage In Garbage Out.” 1 Peter 3:4 says, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”