We say this word all the time.

Great.

And we often assume a positive meaning.

However, in my recent trip to Rome, I was reminded that this word is mainly a qualifier of something else. It implies magnitude, not inherently positivity.

On this recent trip we took a tour of the Foro Romano and the Colosseum – the birthplace of a place, an idea, innovation, violence, a legacy still being unearthed and understood in new was as we, as a culture, grow in new ways.

Twelve years ago, when I studied abroad in Rome, I did a very similar tour. But things were different then.

In this most recent tour, it was highlighted that the Colosseum was built in 8 years – literally, a colossal feat to have accomplished at the time.

Not surprisingly, it was built by slaves. Specifically, 50,000 Jewish slaves captured in a war. During the inauguration games, those slaves were killed.

Learning this reminded me that “great” is a word to inspect further. It’s not inherently bad or good, but if we do want to be great, or do great things in our lifetimes, we must be intentional about HOW we want to go about being great.

To me, part of that intentionality is seeking to know the stories behind the scenes and then considering how I can do better. Because, ultimately, as human beings we are capable of such great things. We just need to find a way to ensure that those great things are aligned with our inherent goodness.

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