Monday, 16 November 2020

Life is not a combination lock


A wise father is giving advice to his daughter, who wants to help her friend in some important life choices but terrified about offering the wrong advice. The mother tells the story ...

“'I understand how scary that must all seem,' he replied. 'Can I suggest trying to think of it another way?' ...  
    "'A lot of people think of life like some complicated, combination lock. Their goal is to figure out the one, right, intricate combination, and their fear is that if they don’t, they will face disaster. Instead, he explained, he sees the world as richly abundant with options and opportunities. You need not find some single, right solution; you need only be sensible with each step you take.'  
    "What matters [explains the mother] is who you are and what you bring to the journey. A person of good character, basic capabilities, and confidence in his own judgment will be able to navigate a course in countless directions. At every point, you must simply pursue the path that seems best, remain active-minded and reflective, make the most of what comes, and, if and when you find it necessary, change course again. In other words, my daughter didn’t need to – couldn’t in fact – anticipate all outcomes and definitively determine the right advice to give her friend. She could suggest what she thought was best and continue to support her along the way...  
    "[Many have] a parenting approach premised on this 'combination lock' approach to life. 'It is one that admits of endless variations, depending on the parents’ particular, narrowly-defined views of what constitutes the key to success. All of them take the form of, 'For my child to be successful, he/she must__________________. [Attend a top university? Stay in our hometown? Be a doctor or a lawyer?] It is a mentality that in some sense I can grasp, but to which I personally cannot, in any way whatsoever, relate.  
    Hearing my husband’s advice, my daughter made a fascinating connection. She said, 'So what you’re saying is, ‘The path is not narrow.’ "In her studies at a Catholic college, she had often heard reference to the Bible verse that reads, 'Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.' I will confess that in some ways this proverb resonates with me, because I believe there are real and inescapable requirements to a full and flourishing life. But those requirements are broad principles, and there is a grave danger in being overly specific and prescriptive about what constitutes the 'path' to success.  
    "For her friend, the narrow path had become like a prison that prevented her from exploring who and what she wanted to be. For my daughter, it had set an impossible standard of certainty that she could never hope to achieve.  
    "What I wish for both of them is that they see a wide-open landscape of infinite opportunity, and that they feel a confidence in their own ability to make a beautiful life out of almost any course they choose. 
    "The path is not narrow. I would even say there isn’t a path at all, besides the one that can be marked behind you on the trail you pioneer." 
[Hat tip Lisa Van Damme]

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome thoughtful disagreement.
Thanks to a few abusers however, we (ir)regularly moderate comments.
We *will* delete comments with insulting or abusive language, unless they're entertaining. We will also delete totally inane comments. Try to make some sense. We are much more likely to allow critical comments if you have the honesty and courage to use your real name.