Be Unconquered, pt. 2

In the fell clutch of circumstance,

I have not winced, nor cried aloud,

Under the bludgeonings of chance,

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

In my continuing application of this classic poem by William Ernest Henley, I want to remind us all to wallow for a time in our self-pity…and then get over it.  How many times have you heard “someone” (that someone may be you by the way), complain all the time, about everything? Even worse, that someone complains as if their problems are somehow bigger than your problems. They say, “my major is harder, my class load is tougher, my job sucks.” To those folks I say, “you chose your major, you chose your class load, and at least you have a job.”

As I see it, it’s good to be busy, it’s good to feel tired, it’s good to have trouble sometimes. And what’s more, it is inevitable that things happen, good and bad, whether or not you are good or bad. Take heart though, because what you can control is your response to your particular circumstance. The poem says it all; “in the fell [read ‘cruel’] clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud.” The author didn’t plan on his leg being amputated, but it was; he was indeed caught in the cruel grip of circumstance, but refused to even wince! That’s resilience folks! He goes on to say that even after getting bludgeoned by chance, his admits that he is bloody, but refuses to bow down.  Pay attention to the beautiful diction here, and look up the word bludgeoned – it’s not just getting “beat up.” This is the type of resolve that we must have despite what chance might send our way. I can imagine the author holding on to the fact that he was at least still alive. Can you honestly tap into that inner strength and resolve to get past the circumstances and random chance in your life?

Several years ago I had the pleasure of hearing the incomparable Maya Angelou at a public forum. She told us of a time when her son called her and asked her to recite Invictus to him over the phone, very slowly and deliberately. After she finished the poem her son thanked her, and told her that he had just underwent an extremely painful procedure at the doctors office that required him to remain conscious – and he needed those words to get through it. Use your pain, circumstance, and chance situations in your life to build strength, character, and resilience. Do not complain. Be unconquered.


Published by Dr. Michael D. Anthony

I currently serve as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL. I served as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Louisville and Loyola University in Chicago, IL. In order to expand my life's work beyond my day-to-day job, I started my own consulting work in leadership and diversity in 2008. I completed my Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development at the University of Louisville, where I also earned my Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing from North Carolina State University. A native of Charlotte, NC I am passionate about leadership development, organizational change, and the ability of effective leaders to transform their communities. During my professional career I have made it my personal goal to be a strong and vocal advocate for students, faculty, and staff, and have a life-long vision to empower others to affect positive change in their community. I live in Rochester, MN.

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