I have often felt as though I were on a teeter totter of which I had no control. A drawn representation of such a feeling might look like something like this:
I have felt both like the rock as well as the guy hanging over the cliff, but I’m not going to discuss the rock’s situation today (probably not ever). The rock in this drawing weighs the same amount as the little dude. The black lines below the guy are not supposed to look like that black alien goo stuff from Spider-Man 3 that takes over Peter Parker’s spider-man suit and later the other guy. That’s an analogy for a different day. The black lines in this analogy represent the wind. This wind is blowing up the cliff face, hitting the guy and the teeter totter and causing the teeter totter to teeter and then totter over and over again. When the wind isn’t blowing, the teeter totter is in perfect balance.
The wind could represent all sorts of things. Deadlines at work, a rebelling child, failing health, hobbies, TV, internet, perhaps every child in your family has a different sports game every night of the week, personal time, cooking, hygiene, etc. Actually, I think the wind represents ALL of that and more. It represents everything we face each day: the good, the bad, the better, and the best.
No matter how hard we try, when we control very little of the situation (like the guy on the teeter totter) we’ll never be balanced.
I’ll admit that, given the thrill-factor of hanging over a cliff, a teeter totter like that could actually be a whole lot of fun. But to live a life that way? No thank you. I want to be in control of my life, improve the world around me, and have fun. Besides, being on a teeter totter like that would only be fun for so long.
Many people live lives that are seriously out of balance. Rather than do something to fix it, they brag about it to their friends.
- Jason Kotecki, Balancing Act, Escaping Adulthood magazine #2
So let’s try to fix it. What if we flipped the teeter totter around so the little guy is on the ground and the rock is hanging over the cliff?
Aside from the fact that the whole teeter totter thing is a rather silly example, this drawing is better. The guy now has more control. The wind still pushes on the teeter totter, but he can better control how much it moves.
Just for fun, here’s a drawing of what NOT to do.
You don't just give up, you don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away.
- Rose Tyler in Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 13: The Parting Of The Ways
Take notice that my drawings illustrate this quote, however poorly the illustration may be. The first part of the first sentence, “You don’t just give up,” is the drawing with the guy walking away. The second part of the sentence, “you don’t just let things happen,” is the first drawing with the guy at the mercy of the wind. The rest of the quote is the guy staying on the teeter totter, maintaining control of his own destiny. The quote, however, sounds way better than my little drawings. Something about making a stand, saying no, and having the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away seems much more profound than a little dude sitting on a teeter totter.
Quotes like this are often contributers to the problem, when read with discouragement and despair instead of hope and courage. The quote sounds so profound, so powerful. It rings so true. I want to stand for what’s right, but when reflecting on my own life it might not seem like there’s anything to be all courageous about. The story behind the Doctor Who quote has to do with a huge battle between aliens and humans. My life has to do with much simpler things, such as my education, building websites, and occasionally planning a dance event.
Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in God's eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown in winning the V.C.
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Morality and Psychoanalysis
I’m not sure what the V.C. is, but the point is that we all have different challenges and the important thing is to overcome our own challenges so far as we are able, and seek help from others when we can’t do it on our own. Whether we’re overthrowing alien invaders or taking care of 4 kids and keeping the house clean, all that matters it that we take a stand. That we have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away.
Fortitude includes both kinds of courage—the kind that faces danger as well as the kind that 'sticks it' under pain. 'Guts' is perhaps the nearest modern English. You will notice, of course, that you cannot practise any of the other virtues* very long without bringing this one into play.
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The 'Cardinal Virtues'
It’s excruciatingly simple, yet it amazes me that no matter what our challenges in life are, the solution is the same: Stick to it. Have guts. Face danger. Ice cream, but I digress.
* The Cardinal Virtues are: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude.