Sometimes, however, it would seem that when the general kept those pent-up emotions to himself that accompany failure, or sadness, or even joy, he did so to his own detriment. I'm not one of those It's-better-to-talk-about-our-emotions people; I'm just not ready to admit that we are all the same and deal with our emotions in the same way. But at the same time, it would appear that our George could be rather aloof at times. It was hard for him to outwardly admit his mistakes. And for that reason, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand his thought processes. Writes Edward Lengel:
What he might have felt privately is more difficult to determine, for by this time Washington had become as expert at hiding his inner thoughts from contemporaries and from posterity.
Still, he is known to have complained often to congressional leaders. We have plenty of records of Washington blaming the poor behaviors of his armies for their failure, and there are numerous examples of times when he complained about poor provisions, pay, and conditions. With all of the times that Washington had to put forth a confident face, there had to have been times when he vented to his generals and to Congress.
The other times he would cut loose were on the dance floor. It may not have much to do with his leadership or to his military days, but when George felt the rhythm, apparently he could cut quite a rug. Having seen the atrocities of war, and even condoned some unthinkable punishments or trickery himself, these times of showing his human side are refreshing. When backed to the wall (or to the river) as he often was, with neighboring communities writing off the cause, and with Congress itself abandoning Philadelphia in retreat, George Washington may have been the only person who could lead his ragtag team to victory.
What do we know about this that might help a fourth grader?
- Some things are better left unsaid. We all should develop discrepancy for what should be said and what may be kept to ourselves.
- Try to build each other up whenever possible. Encourage the positive.
- Find someone to talk to when you need to talk something out. Don't always keep it bottled up.
- Contents under pressure have a tendency to explode.